USA Today has a trend story about upscale hotels hawking two price tiers for wi-fi, with the lower tier sufficient for e-mail and web browsing, and the higher one suitable for video and other high-bandwidth services.
As with the recurring story of wi-fi-free coffee shops, i’m not sure this one is fresh. In my experience, two-tiered wi-fi dates back at least a couple years, and the story presents only anecdotal evidence that the trend is growing: One upscale hotel chain, InterContinental, is testing the concept in three locations, and another, Four Seasons, has expanded two-tier Wi-Fi after testing began last year. InterContinental charges $10 per day for basic access and $15 for higher speeds.
The more surprising part of the story, I think, is that hotels, especially upscale ones, are still charging for wi-fi in the first place.
When I book a hotel, free wi-fi is a prerequisite. In cases where I don’t handle the booking, I’m shocked to check in and find, in some cases, that wi-fi costs upwards of $10 per day. You’d think that free wi-fi is a selling point for hotels, not a way to skim a few extra bucks from customers who need connectivity.
As for two-tiered pricing, it seems reasonable, but only as a freemium deal: Get free wi-fi for simple tasks, and pay the daily rate if you intend to suck up a lot of bandwidth. That would discourage freeloaders from putting a strain on the network, while giving regular customers the basic access they need.
Hotels that continue to charge for wi-fi will get their comeuppance. As smartphone use grows, users will find tethering and creating Wi-Fi hotspots more economical, especially for multiple-night stays.