E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Staying Connected Always Comes with a Price – Are You Willing to Pay for IT?

Gran Canaria - A Winter Day in GuayadequeI’m sure that during the course of these first three months of the year you may have read already a few dozens of articles, blog posts, news items, etc. etc. stating that this is it! This is the year! 2010: The year of (the) mobile!!! 2010: *The* Year of Mobile!!!! Yay! Get your smartphone out and start enjoying a new era of Web Computing while on the road! Well, well, well, let me tell you something, folks. No! It’s not happening! 2010, once again, will not be the year of the awesome Mobile Web Computing experience. Not today, not by year end. One more year gone by and still waiting for the world of mobile to deliver… Maybe in 2011?!?! Who knows …

Either way, the reason why I am putting together this blog post today is because, as I have mentioned a couple of days back in another entry, last week I spent a few days on the road while participating on the Lotusphere Comes To You events in both Madrid and Barcelona and, once again, I experienced what it is like being disconnected for a good chunk of the week without remedy. I thought I would be able to get by being on my own home country, but, as you will see shortly, things didn’t turn out to be all right at the end of the day.

This is not going to be a rant post, well, at least, it’s not the original intention I’m putting it together for. It’s the reality. My reality of travelling on a rather regular basis both inside and outside of Spain and time and time again having to struggle with this hard fact: that true mobile Web computing is a myth. It always has been; it’ll be for a long while still.

As usual, I thought I would have an opportunity to do some work getting connected to my company’s VPN connection during those days I was not participating at the LCTY2010 events, but, unfortunately, things happened in a slightly different way than planned. As a starting point, I got to stay at the same hotel I usually stay in, the Confortel Suites Madrid (Calle de López de Hoyos, 143), where the rooms are large, spacious, clean, with everything included and where the service is amazingly helpful and very competent. And, of course, they offer free WiFi throughout the building! Pretty neat, eh?

It surely is! It’s the hotel where I have stayed already a few times, because of the lovely perks I just mentioned above, including that free WiFi. However, this time around, things didn’t work out all right. I stayed there for two and a half days and throughout all of that time I just couldn’t help get connected to the WiFi (The entire time!) and, what’s worse, not even the Ethernet ADSL connection. Yes, for two and half days. I raised the issue a few times and got told the connection was working and therefore should be able to access it, but alas I didn’t. Yes, I guess that’s what you get for free WiFi, right? No, I mean, really, I didn’t pay a single Euro cent for it, so I guess they were thinking of not delivering much, so I was cut off altogether from it.

That’s probably just fine, if you know about it in advance (I mean, if I would have known about it beforehand I wouldn’t have gone to that hotel in the first place. I would have wanted to save myself some time, and a few frustrations). You can then say you can opt-in for the pay per day use and get by your day with ease and doing your work. No, that won’t work, I am afraid. And not just for this hotel. It looks like, by default, you rather have free WiFi, or nothing. There is no alternative for pay per use models you could make use of, which means that if that one doesn’t work you are out of luck, like I was for those couple of days! Ouch!!! Yes, it hurt and quite a bit!

I then thought, "Hang on for a minute, you have got the iPhone 3G with you and that has got tethering with it, why don’t you give it a try?", which I did and this time around the results were a bit mixed up! Yes, through my iPhone tethering I found out I could connect to the Internet, but alas it would not allow me to connect through my VPN connection, so I was half way there! Well, actually, I never moved from that position; so got stuck with a good valid Internet connection, but most of the content I wanted to access was behind the firewall so again, there I was trying to get some work done and struggling to pass by the fundamentals: getting properly connected in the first place.

During the conference events I actually managed to have a good, solid WiFi connection, which I am sure most of you folks may have noticed, as it gave me an opportunity to live tweet all of the different sessions that I attended, although I didn’t have much more time to get some work done along the way. So I had to wait till Barcelona and hope for the best!

After a three hour delay, and stuck at the MAD airport all of that time with no access to the Internet, since we were asked to go from gate to gate to catch our next flight, it was time for me to arrive in Barcelona where I was staying at the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos I, a lovely, fancy and elegant 5* hotel where everything was just perfect, including the venue of the overall event itself. Except, of course, for the Internet connection.

This time around they didn’t have free WiFi, but a pay per use wireless connection, as well as another Ethernet based one. I thought it would be all right to make use of it, so I eventually paid 20€ (Yes, 20€!!) for 24 hour uninterrupted connectivity thinking I would probably be on my way to finally get connected in a decent manner. No, not this time around. I eventually checked the speed of the network through SpeedTest and got these whopping results:

Hotel Rey Juan Carlos I BCN - SpeedTest
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

I know you may be thinking that those are not such bad speeds for a hotel WiFi connection and I would probably tend to agree with you, except for a minor reason, which I think is a good one: the 20€ I paid for it! I have got a 10MB download WiFi connection at home for which I am paying 49€ every month. So let’s do the math on this one. If I am paying for what I would consider an outstanding service, I would expect pretty much to get *that* kind of service and not something that even my 3G iPhone can outdo in no time!

If you have it, and if you charge for it, the least we can all expect is that you would be able to deliver consistently, right? Well, it didn’t happen while staying in this 5* hotel and I surely was very surprised about it, because I thought it would be that kind of excelling service all around! It never arrived. And what’s worse is that I tried to using the iPhone tethering again while in Barcelona and that worked for the Internet connection, but not to help me get connected through the VPN option. Again! [Arrrgggghhh]

So once more, I was stuck for another day and a half, without access to my internal VPN network and on the brink of shouting out loud "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!"; I have had it! So much for relying on Internet Access services in multiple places that at the end, and due to the lack of them, one would have to go basics and start acting accordingly; thus here is what I’m doing from now onwards:

  • Get one of those, somewhat not so cheap either!, UMTS devices that would help me stay connected regardless of where I may well be at all times; yes, I know and I do realise that’s going to be an expensive purchase, but then again, not more expensive than the several hundreds of $$$ I’ll be saving to the company not having to pay 20€ anymore per day trying to get connected through a very poor connection in the first place. It just doesn’t work that way, I am afraid, so moving along with the times: getting the independence I need to get my job done! That’s all what matters for Web Knowledge Workers nowadays don’t you think? I mean, can you imagine yourself travelling not having access to the Internet/Intranet? No, neither can I!
  • Stop coming back to those hotels that have failed to deliver on what they themselves said they had in service; life is just too short to have to spend several hours trying to figure out whether you are connected or not; I just want to have things easy: start up the Mac … connected! Am I asking for too much?
  • Create some sort of black list of those hotels where the service advertised in the specific area of Internet Connection didn’t deliver; more than anything else to help others avoid the frustrations I keep going through time and time again for continuing to come back to the hotels that don’t seem to put their act together. So this time around, I am starting with the Confortel Suites Madrid and Hotel Rey Juan Carlos I hotels in both Madrid and Barcelona, respectively, which failed to deliver (And they did a great job at it!) and managed to keep me disconnected for most of the week!

As you can see, staying connected while travelling still remains a challenge, and an expensive one, too!, if you ask me; and once again this week I will be putting things to the test when I travel to London to participate in the SOMESSO / Headshift Social Business Summit while I keep wondering what the network connectivity would be like, both at the event and at the hotel I’m staying. Will the latter be added into my already started black list? Time will tell … [Fingers crossed…] I just know I had to put a stop to this nonsense of not getting a good, decent Internet / Intranet connection, right when I needed, and even if I would have paid for it. There is a time when enough is enough, and for me that time has arrived today. And for you?

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10 comments

  1. I’ve found a lot depends on the room you have. I went to one seaside hotel a couple of years ago and moved rooms twice in order to get connected.

    ————

    Here’s an (alien for you) thought: would life be easier for you if you hadn’t rejected email as a means of contact?

    When I’m travelling, all I have in my pocket is a (not very) smart phone. Web access is very tedious but, because I have email or text tip-offs for important stuff, I can pretty much function without a full-blown connection.

    Life was slightly better before when I used a BlackBerry which hooked straight to the corporate server, had a usable keyboard and a larger screen. But I’m back to full time freelancing now so no BlackBerry.

    1. Hi David, thanks for dropping by and for the kind comments; yes, I guess you are right; it may well depend on the room you are, but I just find it a bit too unfortunate that *every* room from every hotel I go to the same issues keep popping up. Far too much of a coincidence, in my opinion, to just think it’s all down to the room where I am; let’s see how things would go in the next couple of days when I’m in London …

      That’s an interesting comment with regards to making use of email while you are on the road. In a way, I thought about it, too, but then again, I am not going to fall into that trap again, and have to fight it. Here is why …

      As an example, the 4 days I was disconnected from the VPN network I had a total # of 13 emails received, which I was capable of processing in a matter of minutes when connected; the rest of the interactions happened outs there, on the various social networking spaces where I usually hang out, and if they don’t come to me for further action, I take for granted they have all been handled and dealt with; so there’s no deadlock; just a nice lovely flow that allows me to fit in right away with the tasks at hand without having to spend too much time on email.

      That’s the main reason why I’m not going back; that’s why I don’t want to become that bottleneck ever again; that’s why I keep living “A World Without Email” and having a blast at it. And needless to say, with a lot less hassle! 🙂

    2. On the other hand, David, you raise a very good point and that’s the one about how much of a demand I have got for an Internet connection; in the usual getting started with the day I fired up about 8 or 9 applications that require an Internet connection to go and grab content, and I can imagine how for some Internet Connections that may be a challenge, specially if your download speeds are 1.69MB, like I have shown above, but then again, isn’t it time for hotels to upgrade to more modern connections and stop making us use email like connectivity speeds? Shouldn’t we be moving along with the times and provide such kind of service? After all, I am paying 20€ for a 24 hour connection, which would certainly cover all of those bandwidth costs in like no time!

      So perhaps it is a good time for us to keep putting some pressure for those services to move along with the times and join the 21st century. That’s why I’m having enough of it all and creating that black list of hotels I won’t visit again till they upgrade and provide good quality Internet service. After all, we are paying big money, wouldn’t you agree?

  2. You’re right about pressuring hotels that charge to deliver value for money.

    Can’t help wondering what will happen to us when (if) the electricity goes off for any length of time.

    In the 70’s (sorry) we had rolling power cuts in the UK. I can’t imagine the consequences today.

    Just a little thought for you.

    1. Hi David! Actually, we are seeing that over here in Spain, where with the recent severe weather (With heavy snow storms) parts of Girona, north-east of Spain, have been without any electricity for over a week and managing to survive in conditions you would think would probably be not very optimal.

      I agree with you about how much we are getting used to commodities like electricity or a reliable Internet connection, but after all, isn’t that the premise of a “Smarter Planet”; one where we help to make a difference bringing resources up to an optimum state to help smarter appliances all around? Smart Grid comes to mind at the moment…

  3. Wireless access in concrete-built hotels is always dicey.

    I’ve gone over to a 3G wireless USB Service and use an antenna i can put up near a window.

    The iPhone tethering works well, if the iPhone already has good 3G reception *obvious point, i know*

    1. Hi Jolie, thanks a bunch for the helpful comments! Greatly appreciated! I surely agree with you on the patchiness of wi-fis at hotels; and almost about to give up on it altogether, till they understand that if they would want to provide a service they may as well do it, and if not just don’t provide it; it will save customers lots of hassle and frustration when that service is not there. Oh well, like I said, I have had enough of it, so moving on…

      … Moving on with a solution pretty similar to yours, that you have described above; think it’s about time as well to take the concept of mobility into a new height, for sure! I will let you know how it goes when I am all set up! :-))

      iPhone tethering is really nice, but still dependent on the provider, which, from what I know, at this point in time mine doesn’t allow me to access my VPN network, which renders it to almost useless… Oh well, may be next time around, too! 🙂

  4. I am ready to fill in your black list !
    I am also always surprised by the price we have to pay in Europe for those slow connections in hotels.
    In US and Asia, you have most of the time free and fast Internet acesses(And In Brazil Free Wifi access from the neighborhood ^^)
    Last Time in Italy, I get the same frustration you had in Spain. I had to use my personal 3G usb Stick to connect correctly my computer to the VPN network(at least the first day).
    How can we proceed to make them understand ?

    1. Hi Sebastien! Interesting and thoughtful comments! I guess this is something that us Europeans keep suffering from time and time again. Another example, last week I was in London, staying in Edgeware Road’s Hilton London Metropole hotel where there was wi-fi available, at the lovely price of 15 GBP per 24 hours or 70 GBP for a week (Was only staying there for 3 days :-((), so it looks like European hotels keep ripping us off to the point where we may just end up going the route of the 3G alternatives, but then again when going to other countries we enter the world of the wonderful roaming ripoff. Again!

      I’m not sure what we may be able to achieve or not in this space, but I’m already starting to question those hotels where I feel I’ve been completely robbed of a service they should provide for free, seeing the room charges they have got in place, in the first place! And to that list I’d have to add the Hilton London Metropole hotel as well. First & last time I’ll stay there!

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