I’m back home in the U.S., getting online in the wee hours over a wi-fi access point that’s my wife’s laptop, which is on the Net at the moment using a Verizon EvDO card. The connection is highly asymmetrical (fast-enough downsteam, slow-as-dialup upstream), but it’s serving as our home connction until Verizon FiOS (fiber optic) cabling and service arrives on Thursday. Then we’ll have 20Mb downstream and 5Mb upstream.
Anyway, I spent my week in London at the Thistle Kensington Park, which lists high-speed Internet access among its amenities. It either failed completely or was slow beyond measure. I spent hours on the phone with tech support at the company that provides the service, and ended up refusing to pay the charges that the hotel manager insisted were not his to take off the bill. I’ve never had a heated argument with a hotel manager before, so this was a milestone experience for me. It was also the latest lesson in a series that keeps me coming back to Starbucks, where the Internet access experience is as predictable (and expensive) as its coffee. I hate to say its worth it to me to pay the monthly T-Mobile fee, but it is. Getting a fast-enough and reliable Net connection at pretty much any Starbucks one encounters is a mark of civilization, at least to me. (Though I do await the time when we look back on wi-fi access charges as a breed of extortion akin to that of the pay toilet. Meanwhile I do understand the economics involved.)
I’d give kudos to T-Mobile as well, but they charge 18¢/minute “roaming” fee for using their network at Starbucks in the U.K. But I am grateful that Starbucks goes to the trouble of making sure that customers get Net access, somehow. And that the access is reliable.
My experience in hotels is highly varied. The worst by far was the Thistle Kensington Park, but I can’t say what the best is. Nothing stands out for me. Anybody know if there’s a Starbucks equivalent among hotels? After this past week of zero Net access from the Thistle, I’m ready to limit my patronage to hotels that have known reliable Net access for guests.
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