JD Power & Associate's latest survey of European hotels ranks the need for "reliable" and free internet as one of the top reasons for consumer satisfaction with internet connectivity or lack of being particularly critical for Gen X and Gen Y customers. Unsurprisingly, the survey found "complimentary Internet access has surpassed complimentary breakfast as the most important amenity."
Free Wi-Fi is probably an over-wrought and over-written topic but consensus thinking within the hotel industry remains mired in archaic ideas centered around the direct costs of providing the service. More than a few industry insiders still attempt to defend this indefensible charge or more aptly tax, considering that like water it is used by nearly 100% of guests. One worthy even suggested that managers who wanted to abolish internet charges will end up in "a special place in the unemployment line". Where they certainly could find a job is in local government considering the latter's penchant for taxing the hotel industry to fill ever expanding budget gaps under the absurd notion that it won't be noticed.
The JD Power survey rightly notes that reliability and fee-less internet in hotels will soon be de-rigueur "particularly since Internet access is becoming more widely available in non-hotel settings." Widely and non-hotel take on new meaning considering that even some local governments such as New York City's has begun rolling out free Wi-Fi in 26 public park locations across the five boroughs of the Big Apple. That does not include some private parks like Bryant Park have had free Wi-Fi for nearly a decade.
Advances in technology have made it possible for hotels to offer a tiered structure to guests considering the mushroom growth of cellular phones, tablets, netbooks, printers, hard drives, and projectors all or most of which are now Wi-Fi enabled. It is now possible to have multiple channels at the same time offering varying speeds and coverage. Hi-tech routers make it possible to enable levels of access with hotel guests being limited, if needed, to the internet only while back office staff have deeper access to servers and peripherals with disparate passwords all enabled by encryption.
In the end, hotels that continue to levy an internet fee with an ostrich in the sand approach to pricing risk missing out on attracting more guests just as jurisdictions that are intent on levying taxes on "out-of-towners" assume (falsely) that there is a net gain in revenue.