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Airport Travel Scams

The New Hotel Wi-Fi Scam You Haven’t Heard of Yet

You won’t believe the deceptive new fee that more and more hotels are imposing on guests.

You choose a hotel because it advertises free Wi-Fi. But when you log on, you find the connection is agonizingly slow.

“Aha,” says the hotel. “You want high-speed, we’ll give you high-speed—for just $15 a day more.”

That’s the newest hotel-fee scam. I’ve heard more and more reports of hotels offering free, yet painfully slow Wi-Fi, then charging guests to upgrade to a more practical Wi-Fi speed. So far, I haven’t seen any published statistics on the number of hotels that are doing it, which hotels do it, and how much they charge.

For now, all we can recommend is that you ask a hotel, in advance, if the “free” Wi-Fi is high-speed or if you have to pay a premium for a high-bandwidth connection. Slow, complimentary Wi-Fi may be fast enough for email and other low-bandwidth applications, but it’s likely to be a total bust for video streaming and gaming. When you encounter two-tier Wi-Fi, be sure you note that fact when you submit a review to TripAdvisor (our parent company) or your booking engine.

Here’s another approach that might help: Check out Hotel WiFi Test. The site analyzes and displays Wi-Fi speeds at hotels in destinations around the world. This week, Hotel WiFi Test announced that its speed-test results for individual hotels will be displayed directly on major booking sites; this sounds like a good idea, but, as of today, I couldn’t find those speed scores on any booking sites. Either I’m losing my online touch or the postings haven’t started yet.

Have you experienced this scam? Tell us in the comments.

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By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on MyBusinessTravel.com, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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