Center for Citizen Media Rotating Header Image

A Common Traveler Tale: High Cost Net Access

My frequent travels expose me to a common problem: high-cost Internet access away from home. This is not a serious issue in the U.S., where I have a T-Mobile hotspot account and find no-extra-charge Wi-Fi connections in many hotels and other venues.

Outside the U.S., this is not how it tends to work. Outrageously so, in many cases.

I’ve arrived in Ekaterinburg, Russia, a city in the Urals region, on a visit sponsored by the U.S. State Department to visit universities and media organizations here and in the nearby city of Chelyabinsk. My hotel is superb in almost every way, with the one exception you’ll have guessed by now.

The rooms have wireless access, but it costs about US $40 for six hours. At least this is not six hours from the time of first sign-on, but rather for a total of that time logged into the system.

Fortunately, and this is something I often find in such situations, there is a well-equipped business office where I’ve plugged my computer into the hotel’s network. Here I’m getting access at (still not sure yet) either at no cost or a fraction of the in-room charge.

Net access charges abroad are almost as annoying as the ridiculous mobile phone roaming charges. But for those of us who travel for business, the alternative is to be out of touch. Which is no alternative at all — as hotels fully understand.

3 Comments on “A Common Traveler Tale: High Cost Net Access”

  1. #1 Steve Yelvington
    on Sep 30th, 2007 at 8:36 am

    Hear, hear!

    After my last Hilton stay, the Strasbourg Hilton sent me one of those email surveys, and I gave ’em what-for. Swisscom wi-fi service in European Hilton hotels is 17.50 euros per day. That’s about $25 US.

    The trick is to lower your standards.

    In the US you get free wifi and breakfast at most inexpensive chain hotels, where the same company will charge through the nose at their flagship brand hotels. In Europe you frequently can find a private room at a hostel or two-star hotel for not much more than Hilton would charge for net access, and you get free wi-fi and breakfast to boot.

    (This probably doesn’t apply to Russia, where the gap between cheap and “quality” is extreme and wi-fi hasn’t yet trickled down to the proletariat.)

    I’ve noticed that the Europeans are pretty uptight about their wi-fi access points. On my recent trip to Germany, France and Spain I walked around with my Nokia N800, hoping to Skype home on an open access point. I found hundreds of access points, and every one of them (except my Barcelona hostel) was tightly locked down.

    By contrast, in the Georgia town where I live, more than half the restaurants and bars have free, open wi-fi — even drive-through restaurants where you eat in your car.

  2. #2 Joe Zekas
    on Sep 30th, 2007 at 8:47 am

    Beware the Hyde Park Hilton in London, where internet access is $30 for 24 hours. That’s 24 hours on the hotel clock, which ends at noon. So, if you sign on at 11:30 a.m., you pay $30 for 1/2 hour of Internet access.

  3. #3 Zac Echola
    on Sep 30th, 2007 at 10:43 am

    This is probably why FON has done so well in Europe. Members can piggyback off each others connection for free. It’s a great system if you’re able to locate another FON user.