Those who have known me for a while on Newsvine know that I travel pretty frequently, so I spend a lot of time in hotel rooms and therefore have to use a lot of hotel internet access. While I do have a cellular broadband card there is no guarantee of decent cell phone service in some of the areas that I visit. I generally use my cell card s as a backup. One of the most frequent problems that I encounter is wholly insufficient bandwidth. A hotel would never consider it good guest service to run out of hot water during peak shower time but they often run out of bandwidth.
My internet needs when I'm on the road are not of the typical check-email-and-browse-the-web variety. My company's software requires a fairly robust internet connection with much of it needed to upload data from our laptops to our secure servers. Upload bandwidth is pretty seriously lacking in most hotels. Download bandwidth is also typically less than optimal when you consider all the other guests who are likely to be using their laptops at any given moment, but especially during the peak times of 7PM to 11PM.
The hotel I'm currently staying in has a 6Mb/sec download pipe with a 768Kb/sec upload pipe and has 315 rooms plus meeting space. If I just do some quick math assuming 80% hotel occupancy rate, 80% of occupants with a wi-fi device, and 80% of those occupants being online during peak usage times, the net result is a download connection that is only 5 times better than a dial-up connection at best. When considering the overhead involved in data transmission, the effective download bandwidth is even less. The effective upload bandwidth under those conditions pretty much matches that of a dial-up connection. In the end, during peak internet usage times, the connection sucks for everyone. If you want to add the unpredictable nature of wi-fi to the equation, it's pretty bad.
Simply put, hotels, especially those that cater to business travelers, should put as much into guaranteeing reasonably decent internet access as they do into guaranteeing a reasonable amount of hot water during peak shower time. Internet usage has advanced beyond simply checking one's email and surfing a few basic HTML pages. When you have users routinely exchanging large email attachments and viewing streaming video on YouTube, bandwidth gets sucked away pretty quickly. The time has come for hotels to stop dabbling with offering internet access to their guests and make a full-fledged commitment to making sure that guests have reasonable bandwidth even at peak usage times.