Doc Searls on Why Hotels and Airports Should Have Free Wi-Fi

Doc Searls (who wrote a great article in Linux Journal about NYCwireless in 2004) has a great blog post on the frustrating world of for-pay Wi-Fi in hotels and airports. NYCwireless has long said that public and semi-public spaces like hotels and airports (and parks!) have a lot more to gain if they make their Wi-Fi networks free and treat them as PR and marketing pages.

The problem here is that the Net is seen by too many hotels and airports as a way to make money rather than to keep customers happy. That’s because it’s seen as a private business rather than a public utility. It would be better for everybody if we admitted that it’s the latter, even when private businesses provide access to it.

Yes, it has costs. So do electricity, water, waste collection and road maintenance, and neither airports nor hotels charge for those — at least not Thing is, the Net is not a steady scarcity, such as parking. Nor is it simple. But making it gratis removes the billing complexities that are one of its main costs and a frequent cause of failure.

So here’s a message to the aviation and hospitality industries: You’re not in the pay toilet business. Quit trying to turn the Internet into one.