Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On hotels and Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi access is becoming a staple of most hotels, it seems, especially modern chains. I have noticed this in North America, as WiFi is the standard Internet access and ports to plug in an Ethernet cable are becoming extinct.

This is a big improvement over just a few years ago, when you had to pay by the minute for Internet access. I think in some countries, like Greece, you still have to pay. "Internet access in Greece is very expensive" was a chorus I heard just four years ago, when I was there. Somehow, given the news out of Greece lately, I don't think that situation has changed much.

So, it is gratifying to find free WiFi access in hotels while I am here in Austria. Now, having just the WiFi version of the iPad2, I can't connect constantly like I could with a cellphone. But it is nice to have at least intermittent access. And I found a lot of WiFi spots throughout Vienna for instant, open access.

The big question, though, is why do some hotels still put password protection on their free access? Are they so cheap as to hoard bandwidth, giving it only if you're paying the room rate? For instance, the hotel I was at two nights ago, the Trumer Stube in Salzburg, has two separate WiFi networks for different parts of the tiny hotel, each with a different and difficult password. (Don't stay at the Trumer Stube--I do not recommend it. And don't try to drive in Salzburg, especially during the music festival. Park somewhere else, like in St. Wolfgang.) Yet, the Hotel Schloss Prielau, where I am sitting in the breakfast room now (beautiful, if a little weird) has free and open, unprotected access. Yes, you could walk in, sit down in the lounge and connect! I did last night! But please, don't take advantage of this knowledge. Everyone in Austria is so polite, proper and nice. Yes, nice.

Come on, hoteliers of the world-passwords are so inconvenient and so unnecessary! Open up the networks!

And cities: Let's get going on open Internet WiFi access throughout downtown areas!

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