THANKS TO THE MIRACLE OF “SCHEDULED POSTING” ON MOVABLE TYPE, it probably hasn’t been obvious, but I’ve been travelling with the Insta-Wife and Insta-Daughter this weekend. Among other things, that gave me the opportunity to test out this Netgear Travel Router that I got as free swag when I was at the Consumer Electronics Show. It’s the size of a pack of playing cards, and it worked perfectly as soon as I plugged it in.
That’s more than I can say for the “iBahn internet service” at the J.W. Marriott, though. It’s bad enough that they charge you $12.95 when much cheaper hotels like the Hampton Inn give away wireless Internet access. But even though we’d registered and paid the fee, when I hooked up the Netgear router the sign-on screens reappeared. I assume it’s some kind of scheme to block people from doing what I was doing, which seems rather lame, especially as they offer a 2-foot ethernet cable that ties you to the desk otherwise. My suspicion is that hotels, like the J.W. Marriott, that cater to a mostly business crowd charge for Internet access because they know it will just get passed on to the company, while hotels that don’t, like the Hampton Inn, give it away because they know that people who are paying out of their own pockets will resist paying half as much for a day of Internet access as they pay for a month at home. Well, okay — the kine that tread the grain, and so forth. But if you’re going to charge, shouldn’t you make the exorbitantly priced product at least as convenient as the free version?
UPDATE: Reader Chuck Cilek emails:
When you sign up for this service, they register the MAC address of the card connecting to their service, not the room number. From your description, it sounds like you
1) connected the laptop and signed up
2) disconnected the laptop
3) connected the router, then connected the laptop to the router.
From the IBahn’s DHCP server’s point of view, it sees the router MAC which is not registered. It does not see your laptop’s MAC, because the router sends its own MAC and never sends your MAC.
I believe that if you had hooked up the router first, then connected your laptop and signed in/registered, the router would have been registered and your intended setup would have worked.
Several other readers said the same thing, and yes, that’s how I signed up. That makes sense, I guess, so I shouldn’t blame Marriott too much. On the other hand, another reader emails:
I don’t do much traveling but have ended up on the road in a fancy hotel on occasion. Once, reluctant to charge my employer for the exorbitant Internet connx charges, I decided to try the phone dataport and use my old (since discontinued) dialup AOL account. No go. It would not let you access the AOL modem pool – as soon as the modem tones were detected, the line went dead. So do these expensive hotels have you by the short hairs in all ways? Why yes. Yes, they do.
I echo your sentiments re: Interstate highway motels, which offer free (often wireless) access in their guest rooms. One summer, we even used IM between our rooms, instead of calling, to coordinate schedules during a large family reunion – thanks to the free WiFi.
Only when you are paying at least three times as much for the room, do you have to pay additional for access, I have found. Oh, unless of course you want to get dressed and go to the lobby, where the WiFi doesn’t cost. Although, on a trip not too long ago, I discovered even the lobby location is becoming a for-pay T-mobile spot. I wonder how these hotels’ decisions to make access pretty darned expensive (with no value added) will influence cities’ decisions to make downtowns into WiFi hotspots. Won’t the Hiltons and the Radissons fight tooth and nail to keep their for-pay islands, even if the heart of the city is free WiFi?
This seems like overreaching to me. And a couple of readers asked why I care, when I have EVDO. The reason is that my wife and daughter want Internet access too, and don’t want to share computers. Yes, we’re that geeky.