Column: Road warrior update: hotels still clueless

Just about a year ago, I wrote about some of the problems Road Warriors experience. Some of the problems I mentioned then seem to be getting better, but not all of them.

I have not seen much improvement in the clue density of hotel management.

In spite of the ready availability of desk lamps with built-in power and phone connections, one still has to crawl on hands and knees to get to the power outlet in most rooms in "business hotels".

In addition, you frequently have to unplug something useful, such as the lamp or the clock radio. (Most of the time the outlet gets switched off with the room lights if it's the former.) That is if you can find a plug within power cord distance of the table that the hotel has so thoughtfully provided.

Then there are the other signs of the level of thought that goes into hotel-room design, such as the fact that you normally cannot see the TV from where you are expected to sit and use your laptop.

There is also the difficulty of getting an outside line to dial up your Internet service provider of choice, even in the hotels that provide a second line for use with a modem.

And then there is the quality of the resulting connection - 19.2Kbit/sec is all too common.

Finally, the ultimate example of not getting it: hotels that put call waiting on the phone line.

By the way, why is it that the more expensive the hotel is, the more the place tries to rip you off when you make a phone call? You get free 800 and local calls at Motel 6, but you have to pay $US1 or more at the Ritz. Now these same expensive hotels have started to charge extra if you spend more than 30 minutes on a call.

A solution to one of these problems may be on the way. I was told last week that there are a number of requests for proposals floating around to provide Ethernet-based connectivity in hotel rooms. Together, the requests for proposal cover about 4000 hotels with as many as 100,000 rooms.

There are a number of companies lining up to bid. Two that I know of are Elastic Networks (a Nortel Networks affiliate I wrote about last year) and Wayport (http://www.wayport.net), an Austin, Texas company. In addition to running networks within hotels, Wayport offers to outsource data networks for hotel chains and can provide wireless connectivity for meeting room areas.

Sadly, one of the things that has not changed is the speed with which I'll make 1K status (100,000 miles) on United Airlines this year. (I do not consider air mileage an objective measure of intelligence.)Disclaimer: The Harvard Business School could use salary level as an objective measure of something, but the above mileage is mine.

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More about Elastic NetworksHarvard Business SchoolNortel NetworksSECUnited AirlinesWayport

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