IT USED TO BE NEWS to report that a hotel or convention center had installed a wireless Internet system, but these days the little wireless transmitters are going up so fast that it's hard to find a destination where you can't unplug. How about your lanai in Oahu? The Turtle Bay Resort just announced wireless connectivity across the entire resort, including the guest rooms and spa. Need e-mail on the fairways? Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Resort has coverage on the golf course as well as its beach, guest rooms, and other spaces. Even in bucolic, out-of-the-way Litchfield County, Conn., the 81-room Interlaken Inn has wireless coverage propertywide. And if you're planning something a little larger, the Wi-Fi system that the Metro Toronto Convention Centre unveiled in January can accommodate 1,000 simultaneous users.
Wireless is making it easier to work on the way to the meeting as well. Hot spots are all over major airports, and train stations are getting on board, too: Amtrak and AT&T Wireless plan to put wireless Internet service in six of the railroad's busiest stations along the Northeast Corridor by early this summer: Boston's Route 128 Station, Providence, New York's Penn Station, Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, Wilmington, and Baltimore's Penn Station.
The one thing that most wireless venues have in common is a fee, typically on the order of $10 per day. Wireless service may be convenient, but it does add up. So when the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia announced its new wireless plan, heads turned. The Wi-Fi service isn't new, but the price is. It's now free in all public spaces. The service had cost attendees $40 per show and brought in monthly revenues of $1,200 to $2,000, according to Vice President of Information Technology Bill Zebrowski, but now it's strictly an amenity, one that the center's sales executives hope will nudge meeting negotiations in their favor.
While wireless access covers the entire facility, the free service does not extend into meeting rooms or exhibit halls. Exhibitors will still pay $250 for their first Internet connection and $125 for others.