Connected travelers have two questions when it comes to hotel Wi-Fi. First, is it free? And second, how fast is it?
The pricing question is easily answered by visiting the hotel's website, or with a call to the hotel.
The second question is considerably more confounding, however. Generally, hotels describe their Internet access as "fast" or "broadband," and leave it at that. But such overly broad descriptors are as applicable to sluggish 3 Mbps (megabits per second) download speeds as they are to blazing-fast 50 Mbps speeds.
If you're transferring large files, Skyping, or streaming a Netflix video, the numbers matter. The difference between lower and higher speeds can be the difference between getting a headache and getting the job done.
Enter Hotel Wi-Fi Test, "a leading company for collecting, analyzing and distributing data about Wi-Fi quality in hotels around the world."
From the company's webpage:
You can be instrumental when it comes to persuading hotels to invest in fast and reliable Wi-Fi. When you stay at a hotel, simply connect to in-house Wi-Fi and run a speed test at www.hotelwifitest.com. Then, you can share the results via a number of social media sites with one click. Because social media is such a big part of everyday life, the value of a tweet or venue tip on foursquare should never be underestimated. Your comments provide a valuable service to other travelers who figure in fast and reliable internet when booking accommodation.
The results of user's speed tests are also combined with other users' input to create hotel Wi-Fi profiles viewable on the Hotel Wi-Fi Test webpage. In New York, for example, 167 hotels have been tested, and the results are sorted into hotels offering speeds of at least 2 Mbps (93 hotels), hotels offering at least 5 Mbps (51), and hotels with at least 10 Mbps (35 hotels). Scrolling through the list of hotels with the fastest speeds, you'll see that the Da Vinci hotel was tested at 53.1 Mbps (although with a confidence level of just 9.2 percent, due to limited input), and the Midtown Hilton scored a second-best 52.6 Mbps (with a 98 percent level of confidence).
It's great information to have when choosing a hotel. And at some point, given the importance of the subject, it's inevitable that Wi-Fi speeds will be incorporated into user-review sites such as TripAdvisor.
For now, Hotel Wi-Fi Test is a welcome step in the direction of much needed transparency.
Reader Reality Check
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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.