Beginning on January 1, 2014, InterContinental Hotels Group will allow members of its IHG Rewards Club free use of on-property Internet at most of its hotels, whether they're booked at the hotels or not.
Here's the new policy in the IHG Rewards Club Terms & Conditions:
Internet Access for Members: Beginning January 2014, standard internet access will be available to all IHG Rewards Club members at no additional cost at all IHG hotels located in the Americas, Greater China, Asia, Middle East and Africa with or without a hotel reservation and/or qualifying stay. Furthermore, IHG Rewards Club Elite members will be provided standard internet access at no additional cost at all IHG hotels in Europe. Internet availability and accessibility in common areas vary by hotel. Internet accessibility, speed, and connectivity in common areas and guest rooms vary by hotel. Details regarding a property's internet accessibility will be available at the hotel's registration desk. Please note that The Venetian and The Palazzo, an InterContinental Alliance Resort, do not offer the Free Internet Access benefit, which is instead included in the daily resort fee.
Since it's free to join the IHG Rewards Club, granting access to program members amounts, almost, to granting access to everyone.
The new policy stops short of promising universal access throughout the InterContinental network of hotels, restricting free Internet usage to elite program members in Europe, and warning of hotel-by-hotel variability. But it's a step in that direction, by one of the largest hotel companies (nine brands, 4,600 hotels worldwide). And for those who believe, as I do, that Internet access is now a basic need, like water or heat, and should therefore be included in the base hotel rate, that's worth celebrating.
The next step: Extend free Internet access to all hotel guests, whether they're members of IHG Rewards Club or not. Travelers shouldn't pay more for Internet access any more than they should be charged extra for a pillow or for hot water.
Reader Reality Check
Pay extra for Internet access? Really?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.