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The State of Free Wi-Fi

by Sean P. Aune | January 18, 2010January 18, 2010 12:25 pm PDT

What is the world coming to when even McDonalds is offering free Wi-Fi in almost all of its locations?

It was announced recently that world famous McDonalds would be offering free Wi-Fi in 11,500 of its 14,000 locations around the United States.  When a chain that has come to represent the bargain basement of fast food, you have to wonder how in the world higher end hotels are getting away with charging for Wi-Fi.

Confused by the connection between cheap fast food and high end hotels?  Hold on.

wi-fi-alliance-logoIt seems that two schools of thought have been set up when it comes to the nature of public Wi-Fi: The ‘free as a bonus’ group and the ‘Wi-Fi as money spinner’ school.

It seems that the cheaper hotels, restaurants, bars and so on are the ones allowing for Wi-Fi access, and it is pretty clearly being used as a bonus to hopefully draw more customers in through the door.

Where the pain comes in is when you go to higher end hotels and resorts.  In the case of the hotels it is because they generally assume you are there on business and can charge it to an expense account.  It is also a situation where you are more than likely going to need it whether if it’s free or not.  As for resorts, they want you to spend as little time as possible in your room, so the less amenities you are using, the more chance you will be down in the casino, paying to be in the spa and so on.

As time is passing though, I think it’s going to be pretty much a requirement that all businesses offer free Wi-Fi because consumers will start factoring that into their purchasing decisions.  While not everyone will remember this, but there was a time when hotels would advertise out on their front signs which cable channels they offered for free, with it usually being HBO.  Can you imaging a hotel being so proud of that today?  So there is a definite precedence for a change over in hotels in regards to Wi-Fi, it just may take a while before we see it become ubiquitous across all types of hotel chains.

What can you do to help this along?  You can send emails to their corporate offices saying you won’t stay with their chain so long as they charge for the Internet, make sure to fill out comment cards, tell the local establishment’s management why you din’t pay to use it, and so on.  You just have to let everybody know that you refuse to pay for Internet access in all its various forms, and that you won’t be happy until it is free everywhere across the country.


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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