FREAK-Shots: Free Internet, Unless You'd Rather Pay for It

A reader named Clark Case encountered this wi-fi login window at a Doubletree hotel in Orlando. Paging Chris Anderson? Eh … probably not. While there might be some reasonable explanation — is the 24-hour connection ad-supported maybe? — my guess is it’s a simple error.


As someone who used to work at a hotel and became de facto IT guy, I guarantee this a mistake by some poor guy they had set up their system with no prior experience (probably an "engineer" - yes that's actually what they call the maintenance guys - or front desk clerk). That said - if you're choosing to connect through a hotel network, I sure as hell hope you're using HTTPS for everything.


It could also be setup to track if you are in a room at the hotel. Offering free internet to guests with rooms while still accommodating tourists or visitors to guests for a fee.


Or the first 24 hours are free (complimentary), then you must pay after that. You must however explicitly choose to begin paying for extra access, hence the explicit option to begin paying.

Paul Ezhaya

Most likely it is 2 different internet connections. One is more business used for vpn and better connection / Quality of Service. The free one is most likely more people using it and a lot slower. I have stayed at Doubletree's a few times and they have always charged for intent in the rooms but free in the lobby. However the free one is painfully slow but the one in the room is quite fast.

Heavy D

I actually think that was the pricing model for the in-room "adult after hours" cable menu. :-)


That's one of my pet peeves: Hotels should not charge guests for Internet access.


In other words, you think they should charge ALL guests for internet whether they use it or not.


Something to think about. Nothing is for free.


the 24 hrs free probably requires validating that you're a guest at the hotel, while the 15 minute option is available to the public.


My guess is that this is an attempt to make money on stupid/unobservant people. The average person is not very intelligent. The store I work in currently has something on sale for 99 cents for one or 50 cents each for two. You wouldn't believe the number of people that purchase only one instead of getting a second one for only a penny.



If this were the case, wouldn't make more sense to set the default/top selection to the pay options?


That would make sense, but there might be research that says the shorter option should come last. It seems an unpopular view (or maybe it's just the way she stated it), but I agree with Sarah that this is intentional, and the purpose is to get people who aren't paying attention to pay, particularly business travelers or others who aren't spending their own money. Steves, are you aware of any behavioral research on this one?

Mike B

That's just poor interface design. Many hotels have a dual tier internet structure where you can pay...or do something trivial like sign up for the rewards program or verify you are a guest. Whatever computer science guy in India designed this was probably focused on the time periods, not details of the pricing structure.


Actually, if you continue with the 24 hour option it will (most likely) ask you for your name and room number. If you don't provide valid information, it will not allow you use the "free" option. However, if you are just visiting the lobby and want a quick "fix", they have a pay-as-you-go option available.

YX Tan

I've some experience with iBahn in some European hotels. How the hotel staff explained it to me was that the 24H free internet is a shared/slow connection for all guests, whereas the paid access would be closer to broadband speeds. The 24H free internet was in fact renewable every 24 hours.


Guests with elite status will likely already know that iBahn charges are never added to their bill. That is, wifi is always gratis for elite guests, even if you accept the charge. Kind of strange, actually.


@ Sam - Yes. Just like the pool & spa.