Perhaps all too an ironic subject to rant on given that I am writing from a hotel room but I feel it is worth a rant nonetheless. I sometimes travel around the country for work and normally take my laptop with me so I can catch up with emails, blogging, reading various photography websites while I’m away (and of course to break the monotony). However it would appear, to my eternal dismay of course, that access to acceptable internet services while staying in hotels is like getting exclusive access to a golden fleece.

In all the hotels I’ve been in (even only in the last year or so) I could count the number on half the fingers on one hand that have dedicated internet access for residents. Dedicated internet access sounds like such a hugely technical term but it need not be. One standard broadband connection, be it wired or wireless is sufficient to provide a small to medium hotel. With that in mind, is it excusable for any hotel, no matter of it’s size, and located in a broadband enabled area to ignore the notion of granting access for guests? Am I waffling yet?

It seems all too easy a solution for the chain hotels to bring in the likes of BT or Eircom to provide a hugely expensive pay-as-you-go solution. If I wanted to quickly check my emails or write a few, should I have to pay an extra €20 or so on top of the €90+ I have already paid the hotel for the room?

This morning over breakfast in a Navan hotel, I overheard two American’s comparing internet speeds they had gotten the previous evening. One quite rightly scoffed at the idea of actually dialing up and being subjected to surfing at 26k/sec. It’s insulting that with all the hype surrounding broadband at the moment and the huge amount of marketing the Irish telcos have put into informing the public about the broadband rollout, it still somehow manages to pass over the heads of hotel owners.

If you had a small hotel of say 20 rooms, putting a single wireless access point in the middle of the hallway serving these rooms would, with perhaps a little signal loss, serve all the residents. Two access points would in all likelyhood give each user quite a strong, reliable signal. Hold on though, there’s no need to go that far. Many hotels will already have several CAT5 cables already running to each room over which internet could easily be provisioned. I’m currently in the Marriot Johnstown House Hotel in Enfield and to my delight, there are no fewer than 3 phones and 2 computer connections in my room. There may even be a third computer port in the bathroom, but that’s just inviting woe onto my already dying laptop. Add to this an Eircom wifi network which I can also pick up (at a stretch) from my room, although this is a pre-pay service which requires a user to purchase a voucher. Finally, a hotel with decent internet access for residents!

Is there a serious opening in the hospitality industry for an individuals or companies that setup wifi networks? From my experience so far in Irish hotels, it seems to be a wide open niche…. Unfortunately.