Guests are demanding more data than ever, but according to recent research, infrastructure in the United States is having difficulty keeping pace with the rest of the world in terms of broadband speed and price. “The Global Competitiveness Report 2013 – 2014” by the World Economics Forum ranked the U.S. at 35 out of 148 in terms of Internet bandwidth in kilobits per user, and Hotel Management spoke with experts from around the industry to find out how this could affect U.S. hotels.
“It’s all supply and demand,” said Frank Wolfe, CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP). “When we got to Europe, the Internet works, but you pay for it. I’ve paid as much as $30 or $40 for good Internet over there.”
Wolfe noted that in many cases a lack of competition has kept prices high and speeds down. “In the state of Texas we have competition for electricity,” Wolfe said. “Depending on where you live you may have eight or 10 choices for electricity, and in a lot of areas electricity has really gone down. With something like this recent Comcast – Time Warner merger, it’s just taking another player out of the game.” Comcast was unavailable to comment for this story.
“Broadband networks within the U.S. are under rather concentrated control, and as a result, we are basically in a situation where there’s a dearth of competition in a bunch of areas,” said Dick Sherwin, CEO of managed hotel Wi-Fi provider Spot On Networks. “Over the last two to three years, we’ve had to increase bandwidth in our hotels on a continuing basis. If hotels don’t respond to their guests’ wishes, they’re going to lose business.”
Kevin Dannecker, sales manager, HSIA and telecom for hotel DIRECTV, Internet and phone provider Bulk TV & Internet, pointed out that the U.S. faces unique geographical challenges when providing broadband. “One of the big things that comes up when you’re talking about speed in America versus, for example, speed in Japan, is the sheer size of America versus Japan,” said Dannecker. “Our average speeds are always going to be brought down by rural areas where infrastructure is difficult to build out to.”
Wolfe pointed out that the degree to which guests will react to this trend depends on whether or not they have fast broadband of their own to compare a hotel to. “Unless the customer is coming from someplace that has super-fast fiber optic, they’re just not going to notice,” Wolfe said.