Department

Technology - Property

Technology Property Editor: Gerald J. Hoenig, 8495 Caney Creek Landing, Alpharetta, GA 30005, ghoenig@mindspring.com.

Technology—Property provides information on current technology and microcomputer software of interest in the real property area. The editors of Probate & Property welcome information and suggestions from readers.

High-speed and Wireless Internet at Hotels

The hotel industry is constructing multi-lane on and off ramps between its properties and the Internet. Hotels cannot afford to offer only dial-up speed when competitors provide guests with high-speed connections to all that is available on the Internet and, most importantly, to the guest’s connection to his company’s computer network, which contains the documents and data needed to perform his work while away from the office.

In the past those who brought laptops on business trips had to use the data port available on many hotel phones or the phone jack on the wall to access e-mail and download documents. At some hotels this could be quite expensive, sometimes difficult, and prevented voice phone calls while the computer was online, except in the relatively rare room equipped with two phone lines. If a guest tried to access a large document, he could experience lengthy delays and possibly have the entire process aborted during the protracted time required for downloading.

Although major Internet service providers made local numbers available in most large cities, guests were sometimes not able to connect with a local call. While many less expensive hotels provided free local calling, some local calling plans could be quite expensive if the guest remained online for quite some time. Sometimes a local call was a small flat rate no matter how long the guest was online, while many hotels charged by the minute if the guest remained online more than a certain amount of time, such as 20, 30, or 60 minutes.

Generally, high-speed Internet connections at hotels are offered free or at a flat daily rate of approximately $9 to $12. Interestingly, it appears that the same hotels that provide free local calling tend to provide free high-speed Internet service. Full service hotels tend to charge a flat rate per 24-hour period. One might wonder why a full-service hotel imposes a charge when a less expensive hotel brand in the same hotel family provides free high-speed service. Generally speaking this appears to reflect the prime locations of the full-service hotels as well as their less price-conscious guests.

To connect to a standard high-speed Internet connection in a hotel, the guest generally needs an Ethernet or a USB port on the guest’s computer. The hotel usually provides a standard Ethernet and/or USB cable, but if it is important to use the computer, the guest might want to pack a cable to be on the safe side. One thing to consider before leaving the office is that some older laptop Ethernet ports do not have a standard Ethernet connector. They use a thinner and smaller connector. For such an older laptop to connect to the hotel’s high-speed port the guest needs an adaptor. These adaptors are generally not available from the hotel or from many stores. So if your laptop has one of these small Ethernet connectors, remember to bring an adaptor. It should be the same adaptor used to connect to the network in the office.

The major hotel companies appear to be in varying stages of rapidly deploying high-speed Internet in their hotel properties. At the end of this column is a status report on a number of the major chains based on a January 2004 survey done for this column. Availability should be even greater by the time of publication in May.

Wireless service availability in guest rooms, lobbies, restaurants, pool areas, lounges, and meeting rooms was also surveyed. Taking a laptop to the pool and working while reclining in a lounge chair can be pretty nice. The survey indicated that wireless service is also deployed in many major hotels and is also expanding rapidly.

To take advantage of wireless service, the laptop must have wireless capability. Some newer laptops have this built-in, and others can be made ready for wireless reception simply by adding a relatively low-cost wireless card into one of the laptop’s available external PMCIA card slots. If the card is not recognized by the current operating system, it will prompt you to install the card’s drivers from the disk or CD that came with the card. This should be fairly automatic as long as the installation CD or disk is available. If you do not have the driver, sign on to the Internet by regular phone line modem or high-speed Internet connection and download the driver from the card manufacturer’s or seller’s web site. When purchasing a wireless card, buy one that conforms to WiFi (which stands for wireless fidelity) standards 802.11b or 802.11g. The “g” standard is newer, provides faster communications, and is more expensive, while the “b” standard is very functional, not as fast, but fast enough for most business uses. To take advantage of a “g” card, transmissions within the hotel must be from a “g” transmitter. A laptop with a “g” card will receive all appropriate transmissions from a “b” transmitter, however, because the “g” cards are backward compatible.

Once the WiFi card is properly installed, the computer will recognize all available wireless networks in the vicinity. Generally there will be only one choice within a hotel, because WiFi transmitters have only limited range at this point in time.

The survey responses from Fairmont, Hilton, Loews, Marriott, Sonesta, and Starwood follow. The hotel companies were asked to respond separately for each of their brands. Some were able to do this, and others were not in a position to be that specific. Not all hotel companies queried responded.

Fairmont

All Fairmont Hotels and Resorts (according to its website Fairmont has 16 properties throughout the United States and 25 international properties) provide (1) high-speed connections from guest rooms and meeting rooms and (2) wireless connections from meeting rooms and common areas (one hotel provides wireless in guest rooms and the extent of wireless availability in common areas varies from hotel to hotel). Fairmont charges $12.95 per 24-hour period with a reduced price of $9.95 for Fairmont President’s Club members and free service for Premier and Platinum members and those staying on the Fairmont Gold Floor (although this may vary by location). Those who begin their 24-hour connection in a guest room may also use the wireless network without additional fees for the same 24-hour period. So when arriving at the hotel too early to check in and working wirelessly in the lobby or lounge with a laptop, verify with the hotel staff that you will not be billed twice in the same 24-hour period simply because your initial use was not from your guest room.

Hilton

Fifty percent of all Hilton Hotels and Resorts (more than 230 in the United States) provide high-speed Internet connections in guest rooms, and guests are charged $9.95 per 24-hour period. As for wireless service, 50% of Hiltons offer it in guest rooms and 25% provide wireless connections in lounges, restaurants, and lobbies. The fee for wireless is $1.99 for the first 10 minutes and $0.10 for each additional minute with a $9.95 maximum.

Doubletree

Hilton’s Doubletree brand charges for high-speed and wireless at the same rate as the Hilton brand. Forty percent of Doubletree Hotels provide high-speed connections in guest rooms, and Doubletree intends to have all of its hotels serviced by the end of 2004. As for wireless connections, 40% of Doubletree hotels have the service in guest rooms and meeting rooms, with 20% providing the service in lounges, restaurants, and lobbies.

Hilton Garden Inn

All 24,852 guest rooms (as of January 13, 2004) at Hilton Garden Inn hotels provide high-speed connections in guest rooms without charge. In addition, free printing is provided by permitting guests to access printers in the business office from the guest’s computer or PDA through a web site, without the need for special printer drivers. This free service is expected to be available at all Hilton Garden Hotels by March 2004. According to Hilton, “a select number of Hilton Garden Inn hotels offer wireless high-speed Internet access in public areas and guestrooms, and the number of hotels offering the wireless solution is growing daily.” Hilton points out that it continues to provide wired high-speed connections in guest rooms, because some guests are concerned about the security of wireless connections.

Loews

With 15 hotels in the United States and two in Canada, Loews Hotels provides high-speed Internet in 85% of its properties. The fee ranges from $9.95 to $13.95, depending on the market. All Loews hotels provide wireless connections in meeting rooms; 80% have wireless connections in lounges, restaurants, lobbies, and pool areas; and 5% provide wireless in guest rooms. The fee for wireless connectivity is the same as for wired high-speed Internet, except that prices vary for meeting rooms.

Marriott

Marriott has many brands. As of January 14, 2004, free high-speed Internet access is provided in the guest rooms of its Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, and SpringHill Suites brands—a total of 600 hotels throughout North America. In addition, the Courtyard brand offers free high-speed Internet access at more than 500 hotels. Fairfield Inn expects to provide free high-speed Internet access at approximately 500 hotels by the end of 2004. The Marriott and Renaissance brands provide a package that combines unlimited local and long-distance phone calls within the United States and in-room high-speed Internet access for $9.95 per day ($12.95 at some New York City locations). This package is an excellent value at a full-service hotel. As of January, Marriott had more than 800 hotels across its brands that provide wireless Internet access. Wireless access is available primarily in lobbies and public spaces but varies by hotel and market. Fees for the service in lobbies and public spaces are typically $2.95 for the first 15 minutes and $0.25 for each additional minute.

Sonesta

Information was received on only the three Florida Sonesta hotels. Each hotel provides high-speed Internet in guest rooms. Trump International Sonesta Beach Resort does not charge for the service in guest rooms. It charges varied rates for the service in meeting rooms. The Sonesta Beach Resort Key Biscayne charges $9.95 per day. At the Sonesta Hotel & Suites Coconut Grove, the fees are $12.95 from 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. for guestrooms and $250 per day in meeting rooms and $400 per day (including setup) with an eight-port hub for more than one connection in meeting rooms. Only the Coconut Grove property was reported to provide wireless.

Starwood

Most Starwood brands (Sheraton, Westin, W, St. Regis, Luxury Collection, and Four Points by Sheraton) offer high-speed Internet access in guest rooms, meeting rooms, and public areas. The W and Westin brands offer 100% coverage in guest rooms and meeting rooms. Most Four Points and a limited number of the other brands provide the service at no charge. The majority of Sheraton, Westin, and W hotels charge between $9.95 and $14.95, depending on the local market. More than 140 Starwood hotels provide wireless access in lobbies and public areas, and a smaller number provide full wireless coverage throughout the hotel. Starwood plans to provide 100% wireless coverage in all W Hotels by the end of 2004. The majority of Starwood hotels are charging $4.95 per half-hour to $9.95 for a 24-hour period, although many properties are offering wireless complimentary in lobbies.

Theme Calendar

To encourage readers to write articles for the magazine and to assist Section committees in planning their publication projects, Probate & Property has adopted the following editorial theme calendar. Each issue will include one or two property articles and one or two probate and trust articles related to the issue’s themes. Other articles of general interest will also be included.

Publication deadlines require that articles editors receive article drafts several months before publication. The magazine’s memorandum for authors gives more details on the format, length, and style of the articles. The memorandum may be obtained by contacting the managing editor or at www.abanet.org/rppt/memorandum.html.

Readers are invited to submit articles for consideration, both on the listed themes and on other topics.

Issue—November/December 2004

Land Use/Growth Management

Sophisticated Planning Techniques

Article submission deadline: July 1, 2004

Issue—January/February 2005

Leasing and Property Management

Basic Estate Planning

Article submission deadline: September 1, 2004

Issue—March/April 2005

Exotic Real Estate and Affordable Housing

Estate and Trust Administration

Article submission deadline: November 1, 2004

Issue—May/June 2005

Title Insurance

Employee Benefits and Retirement Benefits Planning

Article submission deadline: January 3, 2005

Issue—July/August 2005

Management/Technology

Article submission deadline: March 1, 2005

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