Some convention hotels (and even convention centres) use the offer of “free” Internet access as a way to attract conferences and signature events, but this is not the norm. As a result we make it a standard practice to ask for guest room rates that include in-room Internet access. Typically we are seeing hotels provide this concession at little or no additional cost if it is asked for at the proposal stage and not after contract singing.
However, having complimentary (or price bundled) guest room Internet access does not necessarily mean that this access extends to meeting space. This an important question to ask hotels. Many hotels that do not provide blanket complimentary WiFi are now offering a range of “packages” to allow associations to buy Internet access for all delegates at a more reasonable cost. This is definitely something to negotiate before signing a contract as it can be used as leverage.
When discussing the cost (or bundling) of Internet access also ask if the hotel offers “tiered” speeds or if they offer one speed. Nothing worse than finding out what you have negotiated is akin to dial-up modem speeds from 1995!
If you expect your delegates to need Internet access in meeting rooms for multiple devices (people routinely carry two or three WiFi enabled devices) and/or if they will be viewing video content during meetings make sure to ask if the hotel has enough bandwidth to handle the load. While not a test of breadth of the “pipe”, the free website www.speedtest.net will tell you how fast the connection is. Test your home or office connection speed before conducting a hotel site inspection and see how that compares.
For one client wanting at least 500 simultaneous high-speed WiFi connections we worked with a convention centre to upgrade their infrastructure to handle the demand. This was negotiated with the help of IT engineers on both sides before the contract was signed. The convention centre viewed this as a service, not a revenue stream. In the event it worked out well and was a win-win for both sides.
When negotiating Internet access, especially in meeting rooms, know VERY SPECIFICALLY what you need and ask the hotel (or convention centre) what they can offer before signing a contract.