Monday, June 18, 2007
A web of problems
I have just had a miserable evening trying to get online at a London Heathrow airport hotel. Even though I live in London I had a late evening arrival and an early morning departure so decided to stay at the Park Inn at London Heathrow. The room (small and overheated, but comfortable) offered wi-fi connectivity. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer a LAN ethernet connection rather than all this through-the-air stuff. I just find wi-fi never works as well!

Anyway, the connection was slow and as more guests went online it became intermittent. Worst of all, it cost me £14 ($28). When I complained at check-out about the poor service no-one offered to refund the charge…

It reminded me of research I recently received from Silicon.com showing how many of us are dissatisfied with Internet connections that often fail to live up to promise. Apparently 67 percent of us have increasing problems getting online when on the road. And 89 percent of us feel hotels charge too much for Internet access. I proudly stand as a member of both groups!

I have lost count of the number of wi-fi companies with whom I have registered across the world. T-mobile, of course, Swisscom, Thisairportsown, Thatairportsown, WhatchamacallitHotel…on and on and on. Again and again, everyone uses a different wi-fi and everyone ends up getting their pound of flesh (or euro, dollar or yen).

To help things along, Silicon.com has a website called atlarge.com which is worth taking a look at. It’s a bulletin board of wi-fi experience around the world. It is a chance for us to see who is offering what and read other users comments about connectivity in airports and hotels. I don’t usually recommend these sorts of sites, since with rare exceptions (Tripadvisor etc) I am suspect of their content.

But this one could work – only, of course, if we all contribute our own experience. The more the merrier and the better the knowledge base.

So although I am not endorsing this site, in any way, I am asking you to have a look, and maybe add a comment or two of your own.

It won’t necessarily help you get on line any easier at the airport, but at least you won’t be disappointed and reduced to tears when the thing fails to live up to promise.

Oh and one final thing – why don’t we ask for our money back when wi-fi’s fail to work properly? We wouldn’t accept a restaurant justifying a burnt meal on the grounds that “it’s still food” so why put up with a load of rubbish from a wi-fi group?

Finally – if you have a travel announcement, a new gadget, a new idea, destination, travel related software that you would like to tell us about please send an email to our travellers’ desk at businesstraveller@cnn.com or leave me a comment.
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