Travel annoyance #47: Paying for hotel Internet access has GOT to stop

If you own a hotel, and you charge your guests for Internet access, then I’m going to go ahead and tell you that I hate you. I’ll make exceptions if you run a $10/night hostel, or if your hotel is located 50 miles from the middle of nowhere, and relies on satellite dishes to get online.

But anyone with a run of the mill hotel that still charges guests for access deserves to be ridiculed and mocked.

Paying for access was annoying back in 1999, but it was understandable – the investments were pretty steep, and the cost of the actual access was quite considerable. But now most hotels have earned that investment back, and wholesale Internet access costs have plummeted, there is no excuse to use Internet access as a money maker.

Take for example the Four Seasons “The Biltmore” in Santa Barbara. This hotel is one of the nicest in the country, and is a regular location for celebrities who want to get away from the busy LA area.

A standard room at the Four Seasons costs around $580/night. This gets you a room about the size of a normal Hilton or Sheraton room, with a couple of decent amenities. But those amenities do not include free Internet access. Instead, the Four Seasons has outsourced its Internet access to Wayport (an AT&T company), and expects you to pay $10 for 24 hours of access.

Now, we can debate the issue of people who can already afford the Four Seasons, but it is a matter of principle. Paying for Internet access is just wrong, and asking customers to pay for Internet access at a $580/night hotel borders on criminal. Internet access should be a standard amenity at any decent hotel. Charging for Internet access is like making the hotel elevator coin operated.

The odd situation in the hotel world is that the cheaper the chain, the more likely you will be to find free Internet access. It makes no sense that a $60 Holiday Inn can afford to provide free access, but the Four Seasons can not. So, if you own a hotel and you still charge for access, stop it right now. Please.