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The New Hotel Wi-Fi Scam You Haven’t Heard of Yet

You choose a hotel because it advertises free Wi-Fi. But when you log on, you find the connection is agonizingly slow.

“Aha,” says the hotel. “You want high-speed, we’ll give you high-speed—for just $15 a day more.”

That’s the newest hotel-fee scam. I’ve heard more and more reports of hotels offering free, yet painfully slow Wi-Fi, then charging guests to upgrade to a more practical Wi-Fi speed. So far, I haven’t seen any published statistics on the number of hotels that are doing it, which hotels do it, and how much they charge.

For now, all we can recommend is that you ask a hotel, in advance, if the “free” Wi-Fi is high-speed or if you have to pay a premium for a high-bandwidth connection. Slow, complimentary Wi-Fi may be fast enough for email and other low-bandwidth applications, but it’s likely to be a total bust for video streaming and gaming. When you encounter two-tier Wi-Fi, be sure you note that fact when you submit a review to TripAdvisor (our parent company) or your booking engine.

Here’s another approach that might help: Check out Hotel WiFi Test. The site analyzes and displays Wi-Fi speeds at hotels in destinations around the world. This week, Hotel WiFi Test announced that its speed-test results for individual hotels will be displayed directly on major booking sites; this sounds like a good idea, but, as of today, I couldn’t find those speed scores on any booking sites. Either I’m losing my online touch or the postings haven’t started yet.

Have you experienced this scam? Tell us in the comments.

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