Holes in The Cloud

So our family of three is sharing a hotel room while doing some holiday stuff. The hotel charges about $20/day per device to use its wi-fi. We have seven devices that are Net-enabled, but so far have only one (my laptop) paying the fare — and the quality of the connection gets a D+ from Speedtest.net. Our two phones (my wife’s and mine) with cellular data plans are left to the mercies of AT&T, which barely provides phone service. (Among the few calls that came through yesterday were several in which the other person could hear nothing that we said.) Cellular data works only in the wee hours, when demands on AT&T’s system are at low ebb. Without a Net connection, my wife, whose new laptop is tethered to Apple’s iCloud, is SOL for email and calendar updates.

There are dozens of wi-fi hot spots showing up on our lists, but all of them are closed. If this were eight years ago, at least half of them would be open, but the popular default in the world is now for closed hot spots, so those are also not options.

I’m sure in the long run The Market will fix this, but meanwhile “The Cloud’s” promise and reality are way out of sync. Since most of The Market outside our homes is comprised of pay services over wi-fi and cellular data systems are sure to suffer traffic jams as more of our lives require tethering to data banks and services in clouds, I’m not holding my breath for ease in the short run.

Remember “the information superhighway”? Would be nice to have that now.


  1. PXLated’s avatar

    Welcome to the real world 🙁
    I’ve been poopooing the cloud & streaming for quite some time as it’s totally unreliable once you leave the comfort of your home/office and it’s high-speed data connection. 3G/4G out in the wild is spotty at best, many a time Verizon gives me 1x and finding WiFi can be a challenge outside larger towns/cities.
    The cloud may be the future but the future is a long way off in many a place.

  2. robbie’s avatar

    Doc, Just looking over your blog, its great. good combo of tech and life. I just started a project to try and increase the amount of charitable acts online, called space-tiger.com , I’d love any advice on how you think I can get it to take off. Everyone who sees it thinks its pretty cool, i just need to figure out how to get it out there. hope to hear back from you, and if not Merry Christmas.

  3. Joe Andrieu’s avatar


    Ting is awesome. You’re still at the mercy of the Sprint network, but I can hook up as many at 8 devices to my wifi hotspot on my Android phone.

    I love it, even if I do wish they had a better selection of devices.

  4. David Scott Williams’s avatar

    You’re on the Information Superhighway, Doc.

    It simply has turned into the Cross Bronx Expressway

  5. Ric Locke’s avatar

    So why are you staying at a top-line hotel in the first place? To get access to bellhops to schlep your stuff around, at $5 a bag? I suppose it’s OK if you’re on an expense account, though when I had one my boss would have fired me for it, but when you’re paying for yourself the only excuse for a Marriot or a Hilton is that you don’t know better.

    Take a step down to a high-end travelers’ hotel, pay half to a third in daily rate — often negotiable down to even less, if you have a moment to chat with the clerk and aren’t one of fifty people in the checkin line — and the wifi is free. Many of them even provide wired access, which is faster and doesn’t expose your wifi to unfriendly strangers in the next room. Yeah, you have to park outside and shuffle your own bags, but you also aren’t paying $50 a night for a parking slot, and the car is closer to your room at a Holiday Inn Express than the desk is at the Holiday Inn (or, God help you, the Holiday Inn Resort).

    Of course none of that applies if you’re Jed Clampett, and take a positive pleasure in being able to see credit card bills with four digits before the decimal point without wincing.


  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Ric, fwiw, we were in midtown Manhattan, staying at a relatively cheap hotel (around $150 a night, which is bargain there). But free wi-fi was not part of the deal.

    When I have a choice, the path I usually follow is exactly the one you recommend.

  7. rolf’s avatar

    i remember a marketing meeting in paris 5 years ago with about 70 people at a 4* hotel (350 EUR without breakcast, no WLAN)
    70 people paid 60 dollars for 24hrs internect access * 2 days makes = 8400 dollars for not working WLAN. FAIL (for the event planner, the hotel, the carrier)

    i learned that most of the hotels outsource the complete internet connection infrastructure services to a carrier and are still not able to scale up for a typical year 20xx usecase.

  8. John Gordon’s avatar

    The NYT had a recent article on business types staying at Courtyards rather than high end Hotels.

    Curiously, none of the people they interviewed did a good job of explaining why they liked Courtyard. Or maybe the journalist missed the point.

    Provides all the basics, and reliable connectivity. Much better value than high end hotels. Pretty much all @$130/night business hotels do that. So, in fact, does Hotel 8.

    Only other comment — it’s weird that the tech world is so infatuated with the Cloud. I a world where we’re charged by the byte, what is the sense of iTunes Match? Why put my GB movies in the Cloud? Why is it a good think that Netflix streams movies rather than mails them?

    The Cloud 2011 feels like a mini-version of the .com bubble of 1999. It’s real, it’s just not ready yet. Remember Pets.comAmazon.com has lots of pet stuff. It just took 10 years more to be real.

    The Cloud is 2021, not 2011.

  9. Tornado Shelter Dude’s avatar

    Doc Searls- is using an app (assuming your using a smart phone) that will allow your devices to tether from your smart phone to enable them to work? That has worked for me in a pinch… costs are like 30 a month.. but better in the long run..

  10. Doc Searls’s avatar

    TSD, I can tether off my cell phone, or my wife’s. Both are AT&T phones, and neither worked with a darn in that hotel room.

    Where we are now they work fine, but it’s easier to pay $12/day for unlimited data at our current hotel.

  11. Doc Searls’s avatar


    Agreed on the cloud. Need to unpack that more in a different post.

  12. Brett Glass’s avatar

    Doc, you need to get off of AT&T. Worst customer service in the world, and poor coverage even in the middle of many major cities.

    I no longer stay at “high end” hotels if I can help it, because they are ripoffs. They nickel-and-dime you for services that others provide free. Give me a decent Days Inn or AmericInn over a Hitlon any day.

  13. Brett Glass’s avatar

    P.S. — Uniquely appropriate typo above must have been a subconscious slip.

  14. Daly @ Write a Bio’s avatar

    The price and the availability of Internet of any kind or Wi Fi is my first factor in choosing a hotel. My work is entirely dependable on my connection, so I wouldn’t be caught dead in a hotel with that kind of pricing.

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