/ Technology, Travel & Leisure

Hotels – stop ripping us off with high wi-fi charges

Man working on laptop on hotel bed

Not long ago free hotel wi-fi was a nice-to-have perk, but not something to get too annoyed about if it wasn’t offered. But, with such an increase in portable technology, shouldn’t hotels be making it free?

The mood at this week’s Abta Travel Convention suggests all that has changed and free wi-fi is now of comparable importance to hot and cold running water.

The speaker who went down best with the crowd (apart from ex-politician and ex-convict Jeffrey Archer, strangely) was the editor of Wired magazine, David Rowan, who called for a boycott of hotel chains levying high internet charges.

Why charge for wi-fi?

Rowan had been annoyed by his hotel charging 18 euros for a day’s wi-fi connection, which rose to 24 euros for a faster connection. To him, that was the equivalent of asking people to pay for cold water, and then asking for another payment if they requested hot.

Pointing out that airports and cafes were able to provide wi-fi for free, Rowan suggested we were being ripped off and should refuse to pay.

Many people at the conference – me included – thought he had a point. Charges might have been acceptable once, when wi-fi was relatively new and not so widely used. But with the explosive rise in the number of people with smartphones, tablets and e-book readers, wi-fi is something that many people use almost constantly.

And, looking around the conference hall during the debate, this was obvious – half the audience were checking their phones and giving their verdicts on the speakers on Twitter.

Wi-fi is a modern day essential

So if wi-fi is used by guests more often than they use the shower, why shouldn’t the service be free? And even if it’s not free, surely hotels should have to justify the charges they levy for using what has become a modern day essential.

Have you been taken aback by the size of the bill for using hotel wi-fi? Do you think charges should be reduced, scrapped, or included in the price of the room? Is having wi-fi as important as having hot water?

Robert says:
7 October 2011

I can’t see the problem here, as long as the charges are clear and visible up front.

(Even if it is ‘free’ to provide, this does not mean that it cannot be sold, if people are willing to pay. Otherwise how could you ever justify the price charged for a cup of tea?)

If you want wifi, you just need to include the cost of it in the day rate when comparing with other hotels.

Andrew says:
7 October 2011

I don’t think it should necessarily be free as there is a cost for the equipment that the hotel needs to recover but I do think the charges are way too high. A reasonable fee would be a nominal £1 or £2 per day for example. At the moment I (and I assume many others) refuse to pay high fees but at that sort of rate I’ve no doubt everyone would do it without thinking twice.

That’s a good point, Andrew – I’m sure the numbers would rise if the cost lowered. When you consider how many other establishments (pubs, cafes, libraries etc) offer free wi-fi nowadays, though, I think hotels look old-fashioned for not doing the same.

Re Hannah

But you could be staying in your hotel for days on end doing serious profitable business on your device and accessing the internet 24/7 unlike the case of a pub or cafe where wi-fi use is ancillary to the main purpose of your going there.

Hotels are, of course, for-profit outfits but they could do with a significant reduction in the charges made.

Yes, but if the hotel had a good deal with the broadband provider it shouldn’t cost them much more regardless of usage. Electricity costs are another matter though! But still, they don’t charge per hour on other electrical items like TVs so I still agree with Chris on this one.

From TripAdvisor, I read a certain outfit by the Thames charges £20 plus VAT per day for internet access, burger and chips £22.50 (maybe an extra on top) but in a cafe just across the road it costs a mere £3.95 all-in.

Standing corrected if this is not in fact the case…. maybe its General Manager does read this and respond…he usually does as to stuff said about his hotel, whether complimentary or otherwise.

The cheaper hotels ( and those abroad) manage to offer free wifi so cant see why the more expensive ones have to charge £15 or more for a few hours use !

Mobile broadband is incredibly useful and provided that there is a signal it is the answer to expensive wi-fi charges. I use free wi-fi where it is available because it is usually much faster.

Will says:
10 October 2011

Today WiFi is like running water, heating and TV. All these are basic services that needs to be included in the room fees. It is outrageous that hotel charge for that a large amount, especially since they pay for this a fixed price anyway. Before booking an hotel, I always check if they have free WiFi, and only stay at hotels that offer this basic service free.
Also, when abroad and looking for a restaurant, I will always prefer a place with free WiFi.
If more people will do that, we’ll force the hotel and restaurant owners to provide this service, basic at the 21st century!

Paul Rayment says:
10 October 2011

I think a bigger issue here is hotels that claim internet access but only offer wired connections. With the rise in tablets an ethernet cable is pointless for anyone not using a laptop.

What I fail to understand is how Starbucks can offer me free internet with me £3 coffee but a hotel can’t for my £100 hotel room. If two hotels had the same offer but one had wifi and the other didn’t then for me it’s a deal winner.

Martin says:
10 October 2011

Whilst I agree that Wifi is fast-becoming a de-facto necessity, particularly as if you have an iPad or an iPhone, a wired connection is all but useless, I feel I must point out that there is a difference between adding wifi to a cafe – one room, one router, perhaps another wireless access point – and adding wifi to a hotel – many, many rooms, insulated to protect from sound leakage (who wants to hear their neighbours “at it”) and with no existing cabling infrastructure.

To retrofit a hotel is awfully expensive, and the cost doesn’t scale as the hotel gets bigger. Modern hotels will already be wired for ethernet, indeed, many have an access point in each room, but I wonder if there’s a correlation between hotels that charge for wifi, and those that had to retrofit it?

Peter Wear (Partner) says:
29 December 2011

The real problem is many hotels have signed 3 to 5 year deals with wifi equipment/service providers in the past and they are stuck with the system (and charges).

Of course wifi should be “FREE” in a hotel in 2012 (and plentiful). It will eventually be priced in to the room rate you pay ….as is the provision of water in your bathroom, whether hot or cold.


Agree Peter this has probably hit the “early providers” who started providing internet access a few years ago when there were few options available; have noticed a few local cafes in this category now able to offer free wifi .
I wonder if the small print in these 3/5 year contracts are why some hotels are able to offer free wifi in their public areas but charge for use in the rooms

re Martin’s comment providing wifi in all bedrooms is of course more difficult than providing it in a single room cafe, but you dont need equipment in each room – sound insulation neednt stop wifi signals.

I use Holiday Inn almost exclusively where daily wifi ranges from about £10 to £25! Consequently I use mobile broadband, but always complain at the cost to the manager. Though there a few locations whcih can’t even make sure there is a good mobile signal either!
Recently I was talking to a senior marketing person in Holiday Inn – they told me that they recognise that there is no justification for charging, but the £1m income from wifi charges in the UK is something they can’t afford to lose…

glyn mills says:
30 December 2011

I have always worked in I.T. and find Wi-Fi is a necessity so when my wife and I converted a brick stable into a self catering establishment we made Wi-Fi available and free. I find it annoying when you go to a hotel and they charge £5 an hour for access and then only have the same bandwidth available that I have at home shared amongst 50 rooms with availability not always there in higher rooms.

Following on from this Conversation, the Which? Travel team has now compared the price different hotels charge for hotels: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2011/12/hotel-wi-fi-costs-revealed-275257/ Too much?

Angus says:
30 December 2011

In my experience, cheaper family run hotels and B&B’s do not charge. Sometimes it is not advertised and I have to ask for a password, but they always seem happy to oblige.