One of the great annoyances of hotel stays today is that although nearly all properties boldly advertise they have Wi-Fi, not all of them prove to be truly high-speed once you check in. The signal may be too weak in parts of the building, the bandwidth may be clogged at night with other guests binge-watching Hulu, or the standard speed may only be good enough for the most basic e-mail functions but not streaming video or downloading.
Yet the hotel still gets away with claiming Wi-Fi as an amenity. If the hot water only drizzled of the shower head at a trickle, how long do you think the place would stay in business? Despite the fact that failing to get online can ruin a stay as surely as a cold shower, lousy Wi-Fi never gets called out for the rip-off it is.
Until now. A new website, HotelWifiTest.com, aims to be a compendium of shame and glory for hotel Internet speeds. It collects ratings by asking current guests to perform a speed test from their rooms using buttons on the screen. It's a little like one of those gas price apps in that its success and usefulness will depend on whether customers are willing to take a moment to contribute current information. The major cities have been collecting information since October; New York lists 155 hotels, San Francisco has 32 right now. And—no surprise—nearly every property is underperforming to its bandwidth expectation.
But if it catches on—and the social media sharing option it provides after every report should help with that—it could be a useful force in shaming hotels into installing ample Web access. As its website explains: "...Hotels are extremely sensitive about their online presence, and will work fast to do whatever they need to do to maintain their reputation. We use this simple fact to our advantage. Bad reviews are bad for business."
There are some enhancements that could be made. For example many hotels now offer several tiers of Web access: a free, slow version for basic e-mail access (which it advertizes as "Free Wi-Fi") and a charged one quick enough for streaming (which is the one most guests expected). HotelWifiTest.com must catch up with the industry's new revenue stream and figure out a way to convey variations in throttled service.