For a previous generation of travelers, a pet peeve with the hotel industry was exorbitant local and long-distance telephone charges. Hotels got so good at running their switchboards as profit centers that frugal mothers would teach their children to always use the pay phone in the lobby.
The arrival of the cellphone changed all that.
Today's hotel guests are fighting the same battle, but this time it's about WiFi. We suspect this battle will end as the first one did, with hotel WiFi becoming free, cheap or irrelevant for most hotel guests. As devices and data plans continue to improve, a growing number of travelers will find that they don't need the hotel's WiFi any more than they need the phone.
In the meantime, hotels need to be reminded to play fair, and thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), we now have such a reminder, in the form of a $600,000 fine on Marriott for "jamming" personal mobile hotspots at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville last year.
Of course, convention venues have every right to charge reasonable rates to support exhibitor access to the hotel's broadband network and to secure that network against hackers, but when it comes to jamming, we'd draw the line where the FCC drew it.