Netflix in hotel rooms

I’m at the Mark Hopkins here in San Francisco cheerfully billing $15 per day in Internet fees to a consulting client (on top of $600/night for the room by the time California taxes are added in?). At 9 pm yesterday the Speakeasy Speed Test measured the connection at between 0.3 and 0.5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. This morning it is a symmetrical 25 Mbps. From this can we conclude that nearly every guest is trying to stream Netflix and similar? Or maybe that the hotel just has a single 25/25 line?


  1. Izzie L.

    July 29, 2014 @ 11:36 am


    I’ve never understood the economics of the hotel business, where a $50/night Hampton Inn will throw in free internet, free breakfast, free local phone calls (back in the day when not everyone carried a cell phone), etc. but a $600 a night “luxury” hotel charges extra for EVERYTHING (and at inflated rates to boot). What kind of luxury is that? The luxury of having your pocket picked? Are luxury hotels a type of Veblen good? Are you paying for the privilege of not having to ride with the hoi polloi in the elevator?

    It only adds insult to injury when the $15/night internet really sucks, as it usually does. Scaling up a WIFI system to serve a large facility is not a trivial task but it is doable if management cared about this, but mainly they seem to care about fleecing you for as much as possible.

    Have you considered tethering your computer to your phone? Cellular data connections are often not that fast either but they are faster than .3 Mbps and you are already paying for the data plan. Ultimately, like hotel telephones, cell will kill this ripoff. Hotels will still offer it but no one will buy, just as no one ever used the hotel phones anymore (other than to call room service).

    Most cell phones that are provided by carriers are sold with tethering blocked, but there are ways around this. The carriers also sell stand alone devices but your cell phone can be a perfectly good wireless hotspot.

  2. COD

    July 29, 2014 @ 12:31 pm


    The economics are simple. The people staying at a $600 a night hotel are mostly on expense account. They don’t care if Internet costs extra because they aren’t paying for it.

    The people at Hampton Inn will stay at a Quality Inn if Hampton starts charing for Internet or breakfast.

  3. Peter

    July 29, 2014 @ 2:29 pm


    Hacker News was all over this topic earlier in the week:

    “Choose hotels by the quality of their WiFi”

  4. rob in Munich

    July 29, 2014 @ 4:27 pm


    it’s no better in Europe, I have yet to be able to stream video over a hotel wifi, sometimes even surfing the web can be a chore! Airbnb on the other hand tends to have lightning fast internet as they are usually peoples houses.

  5. Gregory Close

    July 29, 2014 @ 5:16 pm


    I am recommending Starbucks with the new Google wifi. Frequently 20+ Mbs, both ways. The older wifi in Starbucks should be avoided.

  6. supermike

    July 31, 2014 @ 4:49 pm


    For what they charge, they should be offering service on par with independent high-speed cable-modem service to each room, but you know that they aren’t… (Say they have occupancy of 20/days a month, and half of those people pay $15 bucks a day, that’s $150 a month, which still gives the hotel a pretty generous markup) I’d ask for a rebate.

  7. Paul Houle

    August 1, 2014 @ 2:24 pm


    I tend to stay away from expensive hotels. I might go to the Thompson Hotel, but generally the more you pay the more the people who are poor enough to work there hate you for (apparently) being rich enough to stay there. At some places this attitude affects everybody from the manager on down and it’s just awful.

    In SF there is nothing wrong with the Union Square Hilton, rooms there are half what you paid and the people there have a P.M.A.

    You can have the most fun in SF staying in an AirBNB; I wouldn’t do it to save money but to have the best experience at a given price it is the best. At $600 a night you could rent a small mansion on a hilltop.

    As for WiFI it does take real network planning to do it, there are all kinds of issues as to the placement of radios, backhaul, etc. Mushroom Networks sells this box that costs $2000

    despite having $50 worth of electronics in it because if you want better “business class” broadband than you get in urban, rural or suburban America you might as well talk to the hand.

    Also, Wi-Fi networks have packet loss that is fundamental to the radio medium. 1-2% packet loss is “normal” or “good” and has little effect if you are talking to a server over a gigabit LAN, but put 100 ms of latency in the picture because of DS Hell and the TCP protocol does not perform well.

  8. scott

    August 2, 2014 @ 11:17 am


    I’m currently at the Chicago Hilton in a very nice suite while my daughter and clan enjoy lollapalooza. Being prepared, I brought my ATT hotspot. I however neglected to take into account the 300,000 plus people attending the festival next door. So much for any cell service – data or voice. Plan B – use the hotels wifi. Its a blistering 2.08 down and 0.95 up costing $13 a day. I too wonder why hilton hotels nickel and dime you for internet, and if they do, how it can be so poor…

  9. Izzie L.

    August 4, 2014 @ 4:01 pm


    By the way, another thing that I have noticed is that the “free” TV connections in hotel rooms are awful and getting worse. By now, just about every hotel in America has a decent high definition flat screen TV, but the signal going in to the TV is some sort of compressed, grainy, low definition image that is worse than what you would have seen in 1964.

    Again, the hotels have obviously signed up with third parties to provide this service but it’s clear that they don’t really give a damn about the quality of the service – they are farming this out to whomever will offer the biggest kickback. What does it say to your guests when you are charging them hundreds of dollars each night but offer them services of prison quality just because you think you can get away with it? No wonder AirBNB is thriving. Anyone who thinks that their industry has some sort of iron rice bowl that entitles them to treat their customers like dirt is sure to be wrong in the long run.

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