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U.K. hotel Wi-Fi rates slammed

Popular U.K. travel guide takes aim at hotels that charge high fees for Wi-Fi access.

Wi-Fi pricing in U.K. hotels has garnered criticism in the latest edition of "The Good Hotel Guide," an annual publication whose recommendations are based entirely on reader input.

The 2007 edition of the guide, which doesn't charge for listings and accepts no advertising, points out that some U.K. hotels charge as much as 5 pounds (about $9.40) an hour despite the relatively low cost of running a Wi-Fi network.

In some cases, the price can be considerably higher: The daily access fee for one Cambridge hotel is listed at 20 pounds ($37.60).

Wi-Fi access increasingly has become free in U.S. hotels, the guide notes, but analyst Ian Fogg, of JupiterResearch, said he believes the comparison is not necessarily accurate.

"When you're rolling out Wi-Fi, it depends on the construction of the hotel, and American buildings are very different," Fogg told ZDNet UK on Monday, adding that it was "not as simple to roll out Wi-Fi access (in a hotel) as many people think--to offer a good signal in every bedroom is very challenging."

Fogg suggested that the first step toward tackling hotel Wi-Fi pricing in the U.K. should be transparency, as it is "not sufficiently clear when booking a hotel what type of broadband is available, what price it is--they normally just say 'Internet available.'"

This problem was particularly prevalent for business travelers who visit multiple locations, as they would have little opportunity to discover hotels with cheap or free Wi-Fi.

Fogg also claimed that hotel Wi-Fi access is perceived as expensive when compared to home or office access but often fared well in relation to the exorbitant roaming rates charged by operators for mobile data services.

He added that a key factor was "whether (Wi-Fi access) remains an additional charge" or gets absorbed into the overall room rate, and he suggested that hotels may increasingly seek to differentiate themselves from the competition by advertising "free" Wi-Fi, as often happens in the United States.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.