I've been on the road all week, moderating events in New York, Minneapolis and Boston. Reliable WiFi connections have been critically important to me during this extended road trip. But unfortunately, a lot of big-name hotels and conference centers still don't understand how to deploy and manage WiFi networks.
Instead of offering WiFi on their own, hotels should leverage managed service providers to set up, maintain and troubleshoot WiFi systems.
The situation is particularly shocking when you consider how many homes now have super-fast, highly reliable WiFi networks. Upscale hotels are supposed to offer all the comforts of home -- and more. Yet when I visited the Millennium Hotel Minneapolis, the Hilton New York and the Park Plaza Boston, I was greeted by weak or non-existent WiFi networks.
Here's why and how things have to change.
First, businesses that have frequent visitors need to realize that WiFi is now as important as basic plumbing, electric service and a dial-tone. Kudos to Starbucks for realizing this. The $40 I pay monthly for T-mobile WiFi service is worth every penny, because I know I can always find a Starbucks with T-mobile service. (I'm disappointed Starbucks is moving to AT&T WiFi, but so far the T-mobile service remains in place.)
In stark contrast, businesses have to avoid the temptation to offer "free" but pathetically weak WiFi service. A prime example is JetBlue. The airline's terminal at JFK International Airport in New York promotes free WiFi. But over the past year, I've found WiFi connections in the terminal to be inconsistent at best.
Memo to JetBlue: Please turn over the service to a managed service provider. Frequent business travelers prefer paid, reliable service over free, pathetic service.
The situation is just as bad in some major hotels.
- At the Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis on Monday, the signal coverage in my room was lame.
- At the Hilton in New York on Tuesday, the hotel was kind enough to send a WiFi signal booster to my room when I complained about a weak signal. But the booster didn't do anything to improve the signal. I ultimately retreated to the hotel lobby for WiFi service.
- At the Boston Park Plaza, the room only had wired Internet service, which meant I was tied to a desk and chair.
Hotels need to follow Starbucks' lead, stick to their core businesses, and find trusted MSPs for WiFi and other next-generation IP services.