Why is it that economy hotels have free in-room Internet access and luxury hotels charge for the service and, at some, limit its use?

On my last visit to Paris, I decided to stay at a Charles de Gaulle Airport hotel for the last night because of a very early morning flight the next day. As if it wasn’t bad enough that they were charging 25 Euros ($34) per day for Internet, I learned when I logged into their network with my laptop that I was limited to connecting just three devices for my wife and myself during each 24-hour day.

I’m typical of today’s “connected” business travelers. I travel with a laptop for work, a tablet for entertainment and a smartphone for communication. Many business travelers have two smartphones, one for business and the other for personal use. That would be over the limit at my Paris airport hotel. My wife and I were over the limit, as she had her own tablet and smartphone.

The hotel pointed out that in their lobby WiFi was free. To me, that was barely different than when in San Francisco a few years ago I complained to the hotel clerk about the daily Internet charge, and the clerk told me I could get free WiFi down the block at McDonald’s.

The issue of Internet charges and limitations are world-wide. For example, in Los Angeles, where I travel frequently, if I stay at the Hilton at Los Angeles International Airport, room Internet access costs $12.95 per day, but 15 minutes down the road at the Hampton Inn, a Hilton brand, a clean, comfortable room there has free Internet.

Years ago it made sense to charge hotel guests for Internet access. It required wires in the walls, patch cables, tech service for guests, expensive hardware, and it always seemed to break down. Plus, years ago, not many travelers used the Internet while traveling, so it was hard to justify charging everyone for it via the room rate.

Today, Internet use is ubiquitous. Just about every traveler is using it regardless of age or whether traveling for leisure or business. Its cost to hotels has dropped. Wiring to each room is no longer necessary; the equipment is far less expensive, and tech support and service is rarely needed.

It doesn’t make sense to me, as a traveler, to charge separately for Internet anymore. It should be part of the room rate, like towels or TV use. If a luxury hotel like the Waldorf raised their room rate $20 to $420 to eliminate their $20/day Internet charge, I doubt many would notice the higher room rate, but I’m sure they would notice that the irritating “nickel and dime” charge for the Internet was eliminated.

Quick tip: If you’re upset with the Internet charge in your hotel, complain, and if you belong to the hotel’s loyalty program, like Hilton Honors, make sure they know it when you ask them to waive the fee. It worked for me in Paris.

Should all hotels provide free in-room Internet access for guests?

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