The jury's still out on whether to charge for Internet use or deliver it free, but the verdict is in when it comes to the necessity of Internet access in hotels. Hotels that don't offer it are at a distinct disadvantage, particularly regarding business travelers.

Security issues are key to such travelers, which is why the Sheraton Sioux Falls, a 243-unit convention center hotel, offers wired and wireless at both the hotel and the adjacent, city-owned convention center. Wireless costs $2.99 an hour or, like wired, $9.95 a day. LodgeNet, which is headquartered in the South Dakota capital, is the provider at the hotel, which it uses as a beta site; SDS Communications provides wireless Internet access at the convention center, Nextel Communications wired, says Karen Masterson, assistant general manager.

“Some guests cannot choose the wireless because of information technology security parameters” imposed by the companies for which they work, Masterson says. That also applies to government workers. At the same time, she recommends offering both: “If I were building a new hotel, I would put wired and wireless in it.”

Wireless isn't used much in the meeting rooms, she says, noting “most prefer to go with wired; they're not real sure of the wireless connection.” But as wireless spreads, the quality gap between wired and wireless connections should narrow, she suggests. Nevertheless, “there definitely are groups out there where their IT departments will not let them go wireless.

“Everybody who walks in our door is now equipped with a laptop,” Masterson says, “and if they're not, they're in our business center. We have two computers set up there. One is wired. One is wireless.”

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