Apologies for tampering with the Bard but here is a short blog about something that has been annoying/pre-occupying me for a while. Access to free Wifi networks.
As a frequent business traveller to Europe I have long been puzzled about their approach to network access for laptops and phones versus ours. Over there they are usually free in any hotel, over here in the UK most hotels will charge . There has got to be something wrong with a five star Mayfair hotel charging £300 a night but still wanting to get extra for internet access.
Add-on to this the difficulty in hooking up (usually a third party with extra sign-ups and credit card details to be entered), especially with smart phones and you soon see that our hotels are out of sync with how we now chose to live our lives – online all the time.
This mild annoyance however was moved on a step though while skiing this year. In the resorts bars and shops now see it as a must have to have free, easy to access, wifi – otherwise they lose business. Now forgetting how annoying it is to sit with a group of friends as they all ignore you to access their e-mail, social networks, weather sites (‘yahoo says it’s going to snow in Villars’ ‘I know I can see the clouds by looking out of the window’) etc. So British consumers are more and more expecting to be given access to high speed ‘free’ networks and our hospitality industry is going to have to get used to it and not get caught napping.
However, it also poses wider questions about the role of networks and the business models surrounding them. If we all see the pipe as something we should all have access to then how will we change the charging mechanisms? But maybe more fundamentally at a time when content is getting more and more data rich, and the net neutrality debate rages, how will networks ration capacity and will we start to see more high speed paid for networks brought on by the advent of ‘free’ access? Maybe the hotels were right after all!