Frequent Flyer Travel Technology

Four Seasons Does Free Wi-Fi Right

How much for hotel Wi-Fi access? Now, at all Four Seasons hotels, the answer is an unqualified “free.”

How much for hotel Wi-Fi access? Now, at Four Seasons hotels, the answer is an unqualified “free.” Not a member of the company’s loyalty program? Doesn’t matter. Not checked into the hotel? Feel free to log on anyway. Multiple devices? No problem.

And except for those properties in China and India, where local regulations prevent it, access is granted after a single click.

Now the bad news: “For those requiring more bandwidth for large file uploads and downloads, HD video streaming, gaming and entertainment, and audio or video conferencing, Four Seasons offers premium service at 20 MB for a fee.” In other words, what’s being made available for free is a sub-optimal service, probably featuring download speeds comparable to what might be expected from DSL access. That’s speedy enough for most web work, but it might not be suitable for streaming Netflix videos or other high-bandwidth operations.

Hotels have been notably slow to respond to connected travelers’ expectation that at least basic Wi-Fi should be available for free. While Hyatt, for example, has a free-for-all policy like Four Seasons’, other chains, like Hilton, Marriott, and Starwood, only grant free access to members of their frequent-stay programs.

Unfortunately, Hyatt and Four Seasons are small—with around 600 and 100 hotels, respectively—compared to the much wider networks of the larger hotel groups. That gives them less competitive power to affect industry standards. Which means that for the foreseeable future, travelers will still have to join a loyalty program to secure free Internet access at most hotels.

Reader Reality Check

How free should hotels’ free Internet access be?

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By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.