Nancy Maas
I recently returned from the CTIA Wireless 2007® show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. The exhibit floor spanned more than 400,000 square feet and included more than 1,000 companies displaying their latest products and services designed for wireless professionals and consumers. Now in its 22nd year, CTIA Wireless has consistently been the premiere wireless show for key company and technology introductions, next-generation mobile devices and the latest products and services driving mobile commerce today.

Although there was no one particular announcement that everyone was buzzing about, there were a few re-occurring themes that I heard over and over, i.e., it is the consumer that is driving the industry, and that carriers need to put the consumer first. Most companies I spoke with were very optimistic about the market and see an opportunity for tremendous growth potential on the horizon.

In spite of all of these technological advancements that consumers can now have literally in the palm of their hands, I find it very ironic that a ubiquitous commodity such as reliable, free Internet access while traveling still remains elusive. After walking the exhibit floor marveling at products such as Samsung’s Black Jack and the Sling Player Mobile from Sling Media, Inc., it seems incongruous that I cannot return to my room, set up my laptop and depend on getting high-speed Web access even if I am paying for it.

In this high tech world, hotels — especially those that cater to business travelers — should offer free Internet access to their guest as a courtesy. To tack on another $10 for 24 hours of Internet access, which may or may not work, borders on insulting. And why is it that a hotel that charges approximately one third less for a room can offer WiFi access at no additional charge?

Hotels should view Internet access as a necessity for their guests rather than an additional source of revenue. They don’t seem to have the hang of it yet either. If they offer it and it works, often times the bandwidth is insufficient and resembles the speed of dial-up.

Web access has become so inexpensive and so easy to provide, especially for new hotels that most likely had enough cable installed at the time their communications infrastructure was being built, that offering such services without a fee, should not be a hardship. Hotels that cater to business travelers see more value in charging the additional $10 to the room rather than providing an incentive for repeat business. I realize that it is not all hotels of this type, but I would dare to say most charge the extra fee or include it in your room charge already, which is a little more palatable.

My suggestion — eliminate the candy and mints on the pillows, the travel size hair products and lotions and direct the money saved towards free Internet access in each room. In the future, I will choose a hotel based on location and whether or not they provide complimentary high-speed Internet access.