You have to wonder if anybody took the San Diego Convention Center up on its price of $600 a week for connecting to its wireless network.

That was the situation as Sage Software users met in Sage's Summit conference last week at the center. Later, it was possible to buy an hour's worth of connection for $4.95, just as the J.W. Marriott Spa and Resort in Phoenix, the Creative Solutions user conference was held, lets you in for $9.95 for 24 hours while down the road at the Westin Kierland, you could log on in your room for $16 a day for phone and Internet service, but could tap into the system for free by sitting in the lobby or the Coffee Flats coffee shop where a public terminal was available for free.

A couple of leading consultants discussing this at the CCH conference at the Kierland this week noted the absurdity of it all. "Would you charge for toilet paper?" is how one characterized his view of charging for wireless, especially when just down the road; far cheaper hotels offer the service for free. Some airports provide free access; some charge.

This is the world of wireless pricing today--all over the place. My friends, I think, are on the right track. Web-based services tend to be things people want for free, and charging for them, especially $600 a week, merely encourages them to go elsewhere. This is one of those cases in business where the ill will generated by nickel-and-diming customers outweighs the benefit derived from the extra revenue.

If you are a business person attending a resort hotel where a piece of toast costs $4 (or so it feels sometimes), have paid for airfare, and the room charges, and are sacrificing opportunity dollars, the hotels would be better indulging in customer service.

Wi-Fi is, after all, a temporary expedient because no one truly wants to be wedded to access points at a Starbucks or a hotel lobby. My friends think when EVDO, the system utilized by Verizon's BroadbandAccess or Sprint's Mobile Broadband, becomes more widely available, Wi-Fi is dead.

The situation with voice communication is the same. Unless hotels are going to install a system blocking cellular transmission, it would be logical that call revenue is going down and that the high charges are not worth the aggravation and the accounting. (Just as these consultants point out that the phone companies will learn counting and marketing cell phone minutes is not worth the effort.)

As to revenue, the hotels can make it up on sin--the bar, movies. You know what I mean.

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