Road (Web-using) warriors unite!

SAN DIEGO, CALIF.--It is time for the millions of business travelers who constantly find themselves in hotels and coffee shops desperately trying to get online to say, loud and clear, "We're fed up and we're not going to take it anymore."

That's because it is time for hotel and cafe operators to get it. It, of course, being the idea that this is late 2006, and Wi-Fi is a commodity, and should be free. Everywhere.

Of course, many hotels and coffee shops do get it, , and provide free Wi-Fi that is easy to use and truly high-speed.

The thing that so many of us are continually dumbfounded by, however, is expensive hotels--like the one here where the is being held this week--that insist on charging outrageous fees for Internet connectivity.

And that's assuming they even provide Wi-Fi in rooms. There is no wireless service available in my room. Instead, there is only a wired system. And that costs about $12 a day. Sure, the hotel provides free Wi-Fi in the lobby, but how useful is that?

This is something I've come across endlessly in my recent travels. Starbucks and other coffee chains similarly charge hourly or daily fees to get online.

In contrast to the little coffee shops which happily provide free Wi-Fi--or maybe ask hopefully for you to buy something to use their service--the Starbucks of the world are looking increasingly out of touch with what users want, even as they look like they'll do anything to make a buck.

Certainly, the hotels that charge for Internet access look the same way.

All of us business travelers need to help these outfits recognize that Internet connectivity should no longer be a profit center. It should be something they provide as a free service to customers who are already there to spend money. And I assure you, the benefit of being seen as forward-thinking and service-oriented will far outweigh the lost revenue over time.

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