Is Hilton Eliminating High Speed Internet as an Elite Benefit?

The worst thing a loyal program can do, in my opinion, is change its rules without notice. I suppose the asterisk here is that they can compound the sin by changing their rules without notice and not even tell their members.

I don’t like to be caught off-guard, so a trick I employ the is website ChangeDetection.com. It will send me emails whenever an internet page I want to monitor changes.

I set up an alert for most major programs’ terms and conditions changes. This works well most of the time. Some programs, like Delta’s, change their page daily if only to update the current date making the exercise not very useful. But that’s the exception.

One of my alerts is for changes to the Hilton HHonors terms and conditions. And I got on such alert this morning:

The terms and conditions used to specify “Complimentary In-Room, High-Speed Internet Access during stays” as an elite benefit.

They’ve removed the words “High-Speed” and added the words “and Lobby Wi-Fi” which is suggestive of two things:

  1. In-room internet will be limited to ‘standard’ speed offers, so where hotels have a separate high-speed offering that will no longer be promised as free to elites (though of course an individual hotel may continue to offer it, but they can also price it as an upcharge).
  2. Lobby wireless internet will become an elite benefit. Of course lobby wireless internet, where it isn’t already free, is generally included with in-room internet rather than priced separately (note that the benefit doesn’t include conference rooms, as hotels will continue to sell such access to groups where they can).

ChangeDetection suggests that the change was posted on December 15th, but the terms and conditions indicate an effective date of December 11.

Thanks for the heads up and advance notice sleight of hand, Hilton!


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I noticed the same thing making a booking yesterday for the hilton whistler. Thought it was only this particular hotel, but looks like not.

    In room wifi is pretty important to me on this particular trip as I’m not about to sign up for an int’l data plan just for a single weeend in Canada…

  2. Grrrr. I went back and read my Dec 12 confirmation for a reservation made months ago at Embassy Suites. It does indeed say “Lobby Wifi Internet Access” and nothing about in-room. I may complain at check-in since I made the reservation before this change.

  3. In-room appears to still be referenced.

    From the HHonors website (copied out of my account):
    “Complimentary In-Room and Lobby Wi-Fi Internet Access during stays at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites Hotels™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™”

    What is really interesting is the omission of Hilton Garden Inn.

  4. The way I read this, it’s just that they are no longer referring to In-Room Internet as “High Speed.”

  5. I’ve never stayed at a Hilton where the internet could be described as “high-speed”. At most locations, in the evenings, when everyone is working, it slows down to dial-up bandwidth levels. They’re probably just removing the phrase to avoid getting sued for false advertising.

  6. Hilton Gold here. I noticed this change for a booking I made at a Hampton Inn on December 4 for check-in on December 9. I thought perhaps it was just that they didn’t offer wifi in the rooms (this is Morgan City, Louisiana after all). However, they did have in-room internet and it was free to me as a Gold — the standard splash screen came up and I logged in as usual.

    Of course, eliminating this for Gold members effectively means that there are zero incremental benefits to being a mid-tier elite, other than a few more points on a gutted award chart and some free bottled water.

  7. Just another reason it makes since to have tethering ability on your phone for domestic stays. I often will just use it instead of the hotel/lounge wifi because it’s faster.

  8. I’m so glad I used my Hilton points (to get my sister her honeymoon week at the Hilton Los Cabos in a suite) before the latest devaluation and have stopped staying with Hilton entirely. Hilton has become the least appealing hotel chain of the majors, in my opinion. Their properties are not usually as appealing at the top end (St. Regis/W/Luxury Collection in SPG, Park Hyatt/Grand Hyatt, and Ritz/JW Marriott properties are more widespread and better than the few Conrads/Waldorfs available) and their earnings and redemptions are pitiful in comparison. Marriott has ties with United, SPG can use points towards most airlines, and Hyatt can be gained trough Chase Ultimate Rewards. This latest public offering doesn’t bode well for the future, either, especially if taking away complimentary high-speed internet is the latest move by Hilton. FAIL.

  9. @WhiteDesert — Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, and Home2 Suites are omitted from the list because those brands offer complimentary Wi-Fi to all guests.

  10. Hilton hotels are also doing away with formal business centers and opting for an open media center in the lobby just next to the check in desks. These are free work stations and presumably are high speed. So can’t see them charging for high speed acess in public areas like this.

  11. @Mark–yeah I forgot that HGI was grouped together with HI and Home2 Suites when I wrote that dumb comment.

  12. Wow, Gary, you going to update this blog? Bad fact checking when it’s not a benefit being taken away– they’re just not offering it at the lower tier hotels because everyone gets free Internet, and they’re only guaranteeing wifi in the lobby (Hyatt MCO does the same as the rooms only have wired Internet).

  13. Seems much ado about nothing. Say, what is the definition of “high speed” anyway? Back in the day, it was anything other than dialup.

  14. I do not know what high speed means, but my mariott room wifi tests out at 12 meg up/6meg down. I could pay more for “high speed” about $5 a day I think, but why do I need it?

    Does anyone remember 56K dial up?

    Not you Gary, I know you got your start at 300 baud!

  15. ncsam – unless you’re traveling abroad – where you want wifi so you don’t have to use data.

  16. So… is it just a clarification that Hilton doesn’t really offer “high speed internet” or is it what you suggest that Hotels that offer two tiers won’t offer the “high speed” version to elites free? Care to reach out to Hilton for clarification?

    In my experience at hotels where the “high speed” version was a separate offering, generally for ~$15/day I’ve generally never found it to be particularly different than the free service honestly. It still bogs down to nothing at 8pm when everybody is on their laptops. Not sure if its really a different service level at most of these places.

  17. To Paul –
    ======
    Paul said,

    …”Say, what is the definition of “high speed” anyway?”
    ======
    As 0f 2010 – Per the FCC – They classify high-speed internet as being 4MB’s (download) – this is for residential customers not for businesses.
    ======
    Now for businesses I do not see any classification as of yet. Or at least I could not find a specific mention for businesses.
    ======
    However, some hotels have begun to create their own internal “high speed internet” minimum standards.

    For example, IHG hotels have an internal minimum (per device) internet high speed standard of 3MB(download)x 1MB(upload).

    Now, lets think about this for a moment – 3MB download per device – per guest. (this is assuming 1 mobile device per guest room).

    Mobile device = laptop, smart phone, tablet, gaming console, chromecast, Apple TV, etc…

    Lets do some math to see how this will work out – if a hotel has 100 rooms. Assuming 1 mobile device per guest per room. Each device is assigned 3MB for download speed.
    ====
    (the assumption here is worse case scenario – all 100 devices being used at the same time by all 100 guests)
    =====
    3×100=300 MB’s of needed bandwidth to accommodate 100 devices on a hotels network…(remember this is just 1 device per guest).

    The highest speed bandwidth (if available to a hotel in their city/town or local region) would have to purchase 3 lines of 100MB (Comcast offers a 100MB download plan – at a steep amount) bandwidth in order to provide 3MB of bandwidth to each device per guest(and remember this is just assuming 1 device per guest/per room!)

    This is why hotels will use bandwidth shaping controls to limit bandwidth to guest devices; to help ensure all guest devices receive some share of the bandwidth.

    At some point – a hotel could go bankrupt in just trying to pay for bandwidth for its guests. Each hotel is responsible for their own local internet provider selection and meeting home office/corporate office bandwidth requirements. Usually, hotels do not get help from their corporate office when it comes to paying for the internet access being provided to an individual hotel. The hotel must absorb this cost fully.

    Hopefully this explanation of guest bandwidth will help customers understand what is going on behind the scenes to what it takes to provide that “complimentary” or “free internet”.

    ======
    Will the speeds get higher?
    Although there is some internal talking at the FCC; to perhaps upping this “minimum” classification of broadband to residential customers.
    ======
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/amadoudiallo/2014/05/30/fcc-looking-to-set-higher-minimum-speeds-for-broadband/

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