I’m in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park for some meetings, staying at the very nice Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary. Like most upsacle hotels these days, the room comes with a big flat-screen TV. But the service is awful, especially compared to the Verizon FiOS TV service I have at home.
There are only a handful of HD channels, and on those the images keep breaking up into big pixelated blocks. The rest of the selection is analog, and looks awful on the big screen. There’s no on-screen program guide.
At least it’s better than the Holiday Inn in Mount Kisco, NY. I stayed in over Thanksgiving. Like the Umstead, the room at the considerably less upscale hotel came with a big LG flat screen. But the service was all standard definition, mostly analog, and in what I consider a mortal sin, had 4:3 SD images stretched horizontally to fill the 16:9 display. I couldn’t watch anything more visually intense than CNN.
The fundamental problem, I think, is that hotels are interested in the trappings of high tech and the bragging rights of high-tech features, but can’t or won’t spend the money to deliver the real goods. How often have you paid $10 to $15 a day (or a lot more in Europe) for “high speed” Internet service that can barely beat a dialup connection. That’s probably because the hotel has a 1 Mb or so DSL line serving as the backhaul for all the guests. One of the ironies of the hotel business is the less you pay, the more like you are to get free Internet and the more likely the performance is to b acceptable.
I don’t know a good solution for the TV problem, but a wide-area wireless modem, or a tethered smartphone, is generally a decent alternative to using overpriced, under-performing hotel Internet. Of course, there’s always going to be the hotel room where whatever wireless service you use won’t provide decent reception. And for international travelers, data roaming rates are still prohibitive. But over time, wide-area wireless is going to kill hotel Internet as surely as mobile phones have killed exhorbitantly priced hotel phone service.
Does anyone have a high-tech alternative to overpriced, clothes-mangling hotel laundries?