Whether staying in a hotel or a house, one of the first necessities to take care of is figuring out how to get wi-fi access. It can be as important as the bed and the shower.

I have to admit that I don’t have a smart phone with cellular data. I carried a Blackberry for a previous employer that was nice to have for simple tasks, especially when there was no wi-fi nearby, and I’m having fun now with a borrowed iPad with cellular data. But that’s not good enough when I’m trying to move a lot of data, or in situations like I’m in now, where the house I’m staying in is nestled between hills that completely block all cell signals.

Internet access at a hotel can be an adventure. Often it seems that so many people are sharing the high-speed connection that it’s not high speed for anyone. I’ve done some software testing using such terrible hotel networks that I reproduced bugs there that I never saw anywhere else. At least at a hotel, I can easily ask at the front desk or look for instructions in the room for how to get connected. When I’m staying at someone’s house, the situation can be more delicate.

When I arrange to stay at the house of a friend or family member, I don’t generally ask in advance about Internet access. It seems impolite, when I’m getting free accommodation and maybe even free meals, to expect to use their Internet connection, too. My hosts rarely volunteer the details about their wi-fi network, which usually requires a password. But it would hardly affect them at all to share a few megabytes with me, would it? Often it wouldn’t, but where I’m at now, they say they’re nearing their monthly quota of data on their satellite Internet service, and they risk getting their bandwidth throttled if they exceed the quota, so the wi-fi is turned off most of the time.

I’m reminded of the time I had house guests from Denmark. They were keen to get Internet access to be in touch with home. For some reason, I needed to move my Uverse router, and when I plugged it back in, I didn’t get it right. We were unplugged from the Internet for a few days, which must have been an annoyance to them, though they didn’t complain. I felt I had failed as a host.

So you’ll see this post the next time we go on an excursion beyond the hills. Meanwhile, I’m learning that I can survive with only a land line phone to connect me to the outside world.

What do you think – should house guests expect their hosts to share their Internet service, and fork over the password as part of showing where the bedroom and bathroom are?

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