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The Internet is broken: The dark side of wireless broadband

Lotusphere 2004 started today (this column is being written on Sunday, the 25th of January), as it does every year at this time. Traditionally, thousands of Lotus customers, business partners and members of the media descend on Walt Disney World, concentrating on the Dolphin and Swan hotels.

This year, I'm staying at the Swan, which last year, along with the Dolphin, implemented broadband Internet access in all of its guest rooms. Best of all, it's free, as it is included in the $10 per diem resort fee, which remained at the pre-broadband price.

After settling into their rooms, guests enjoyed speedy access to the Net, that is, until the Lotusphere opening party wrapped and all the IBMers went back to their rooms. At that point, my 1995 vintage 1200 baud modem would have been faster. But whereas I would normally chalk that up to beginner's, uh, luck, the same thing happened last year.

About the author

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and chief analyst at Basex, an analysis firm that specializes in collaborative business knowledge in the enterprise. Click here to contact Basex.

 Today, I arrived in my suite just as the party was fizzling out. I wasn't suffering from Web or e-mail withdrawal, thanks to the variety of Bluetooth-enabled devices (laptop, PDA) which utilize my mobile for GPRS access. But I did want to look at a few high-bandwidth Web sites so I connected to the hotel's network.

Big mistake.

Something was dramatically wrong as even the Swan/Dolphin commercial page that loaded after the legal "accept" page didn't make it past 4%. So I called the help line. "The Internet is actually broken," I was told. "Our servers are down so there's no access." But I had access, albeit slow, I helpfully explained. "They're working on it" was the reply.

I thought about this for about two seconds and rang up the front desk manager, Jonathan, a cheerful chap who assured me that he had been on the Web earlier and hadn't detected a problem -- while at the same time advising that we all shared the same T1. I think Jonathan hit on the root of the problem, as one T1 line couldn't possibly be sufficient for all these guest rooms - especially given the number of high tech conferences taking place here.

But he checked on what I had been told and rang me back. He was very apologetic, assuring me that the Internet, indeed, was "not broken." He even credited me a day and a half in resort fees, promising me the situation would improve. (Did I mention that, while I was connected to the hotel's network, my computer received an RPC shutdown command that restarted the system - three times?)

So if anyone thinks that the high tech industry has made any great leaps in the hospitality industry over the past year, kindly give pause and rethink that thought. And download our report "Romancing the Road Warrior: The Case for Free Net Access."

Now I leave you with Jonathan's final advice to me: "It might be faster if you use a phone line and dial an ISP." I wasn't going to tell him about Bluetooth and GPRS, but that, dear reader, thanks to my belt-and-suspenders approach to Net access, is how you got to read this story.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Visit SearchDomino.com for its special coverage of Lotusphere 2004.

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