The new year brings free hotel Wi-Fi and new cancellation policies

Before last year's holiday celebrations kicked into high gear, Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts revealed their plan to offer free Wi-Fi access to guests beginning in February. Hyatt is allowing travelers to access Wi-Fi on an unlimited number of devices. Meanwhile, Starwood is offering free standard in-room Internet access for Starwood Preferred Guest members who book directly through Starwood digitally.

The Consumerist reported that the offer of free Wi-Fi to guests who book directly was also offered by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in early 2014 as a means to sidestep online travel agent sites such as Expedia and Orbitz, offering low-end Wi-Fi for free and offering a tiered service for guests who pay a little more.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is in the midst of deciding whether or not hotels should be able to block personal Wi-Fi hotspots within their buildings. This came to a head when Marriott was fined $600,000 for doing just that.


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According to CNN Money, Marriott responded that the company will not block guest Wi-Fi hotspots in guestrooms, following a negative response over social media. Marriott claims it never planned to block guest access in guestrooms or lobbies, only in conference spaces.

"To set the record straight it has never been nor will it ever be Marriott's policy to limit our guests' ability to access the Internet by all available means, including through the use of personal Mi-Fi and/or Wi-Fi devices," the company said in a statement. "As a matter of fact, we invite and encourage our guests to use these Internet connectivity devices in our hotels."

In addition, the Associated Press reported that while hotels are trending towards free Wi-Fi they are tightening their grip on cancellation policies. Hilton and Marriott specifically are instituting new plans that force guests to cancel their plans earlier than before. Currently, hotels allow guests to cancel by 6 pm on the night of arrival, but as of Jan. 1 guests now must cancel by midnight the day before their arrival, or face a cancellation fee.