I upload a lot of photos. It’s almost always an ordeal unless I’m at home or work. That’s because I get fast upload speeds in both places. At home I have a fiber connection to the Net with 20Mb symmetrical service — a rare and good thing. I don’t know the upstream speed at work, but it’s plenty fast enough and it always works.
When I hit the road, though, it’s aarg all the way.
Most hotels have crappy service. There are some exceptions among the expensive hotels. The Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles seemed pretty good a few days ago. But before that, neither the University of Redlands nor the Hilton in Loma Linda was worth a damn. The problem at Redlands was all kinds of blocked stuff: ping, ssh and IM protocols all seemed to be blocked, when anybody could get on at all. The Hilton was just slow and lame. Most of the low- to mid-price hotels in which I tend to stay are good for browsing, email and not much more.
Generally speaking, the cheap hotels with free connectivity are okay.
Anyway, I’m at Logan Airport in Boston now, waiting for a late plane, paying $4.95 for “roaming” on MassPort’s system as a t-Mobile customer, for which I’m already paying $29 or so per month. Last time I flew, a few days ago, T-Mobile’s system didn’t work at LAX. Since I’m also without my EvDO service right now, there’s no way to bypass MassPort here at Logan.
Right now I’m watching Flickr’s in-browser uploading system fail on photo after photo. Of the eight shots it has tried to upload so far, only two have made it. The rest turned red. A few seconds ago I gave up on them.
A speedtest now says my download speed is 4.4Mbps, and uploads are just 109kbps.
The problem here is that the Net is seen by too many hotels and airports as a way to make money rather than a way to keep customers happy. That’s because it’s seen as a private business rather than as a public utility. It would be better for everybody if we admitted that it’s the latter, even when private businesses provide access to it.
Yes, it has costs. So do electricity, water, waste collection and road maintenance, and neither airports nor hotels charge for those. They lump the costs with something else.
Thing is, the Net is not a steady scarcity, such as parking. Nor is it simple. But making it gratis removes the billing complexities that are one of its main costs and a frequent cause of failure.
So here’s a message to the aviation and hospitality industries: You’re not in the pay toilet business. Quit trying to turn the Internet into one.
And here’s a plea to the marketplace: Somebody come up with a Net connection business for airports and hotels that’s all about installing a simple and symmetrical utility that’s easy to maintain and keeps users happy.