Is it time for a “Free The Wi-Fi” campaign for hotels?

wifiShould wireless Internet access be free at hotels? A vast majority of guests think so, and now a UK-based blogger is ratcheting up the pressure on hotels to free their Wi-Fi signals once and for all.

Rajul Chande, the editor of, yesterday published an open letter to hotels, demanding they no longer charge for their wireless access points. It seems to be gaining some traction online.

Chande lists eight reasons for freeing Wi-Fi. He argues that wireless access is a basic utility and that charging for it angers guests and devalues a hotel brand.

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What’s more, Chande argues, influential social media types will go out of their way to avoid a property that charges for Internet access.

If your hotel charges for WiFi, the news will spread rapidly. Moreover, the profile of people who use hotel WiFi is similar to those who write online reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.

By charging for WiFi, your hotel is alienating the world’s most influential online community.

Asking guests to pay for wireless Internet access is denying the future, too.

You cannot reverse a technology trend (the growing use of internet-connected devices) nor can you swim against an irresistible consumer tide.

I’m convinced that universal free hotel WiFi is inevitable and it’s only a question of “when”. Do you want to be the last hotel left standing, letting your competitors reap all the benefits to the detriment of your reputation?

So is it time to join the “Free Wi-Fi” campaign? Yes. Then again, it was time two years ago, when I declared that wireless access was a basic right for hotel guests.

We all know that the cost of providing wireless access has very little to do with what we’re charged as hotel guests. Why else would a full-service property bill you $9.95 for a day of Internet access, but the budget motel offer the signal for free?

This has everything to do with a hotel wanting to help itself to more of your money, the way it did with phones in the 80s and early 90s, before guests got smart and started to use their cell phones.

I’ve spoken with hotel revenue managers about this issue. They don’t want to give up the money. They know it’s the right thing to do, but they just can’t bring themselves to doing it.

Maybe this campaign will persuade them to change their minds.

(Photo: slambo_42/Flickr Creative Commons)

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