A struggle is taking place between frequent business travelers and hotels over high-speed Internet access, with guest demanding free access and hotels trying to recoup their costs

Hotels generally do not employ full-time IT staff, choosing instead to outsource the task of connecting and supporting hundreds of guest rooms with around-the-clock, high-speed Internet access that's robust enough to service conferences, meetings and crunch times. Hotels generally charge between US$10 to $20 a night for speeds that are usually equivalent to a T1 line.

The charges don't sit well with guests, said David Lee, CEO of XoomCRM, a vendor of customer relationship management software. Lee, who travels about two weeks out of every month for business, feels that at this point high-speed Internet access is an amenity, similar to free coffee in the room. While hotel stays are expensible, Lee feels so strongly about it he said it would influence where he stays.

Research has shown he's not alone. "The number one item that frequent business travelers are telling us would impact their hotel purchase decisions is free Internet access in their rooms," said Diane Clarkson, travel industry analyst at JupiterResearch. That conclusion came from an executive survey of 300 people who travel more than 10 times a year. Fifty-seven percent of business travelers said it would influence what hotel they choose.

"It's very much a principle thing," Clarkson said. "These are smart, savvy business travelers who understand the margins and resent being charged $10 to $20 for Internet access," she said.

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