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Yesterday I ran across the following article that unpacks the results of a TripAdvisor survey revealing that WiFi or Wireless Broadband connectivity is the top amenity that travelers are looking for when booking a hotel.  In fact, WiFi outranked amenities such as Breakfast, Loyalty programs, an onsite restaurant, and airport shuttle service.

In the Fall of 2011, Educause released the an Info Graphic that details the results of their 2011 National Survey of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology.  In this Info Graphic, I found interesting that 78% of undergraduate students reported that WiFi was “extremely valuable” to their academic success.  WiFi was second to a laptop computer.

I would agree that WiFi connectivity is something I look for when I’m traveling, especially when traveling overseas, so I’m not surprised by the data from the TripAdvisor survey.  However the statistic from Educause did surprise me.   As a technologist who helped to launch WiFi services at my institution, I don’t think we ever expected it to be primary connectivity choice.  Back in 1999, I installed WiFi in our college library thanks to a state grant.  Immediately we identified several limitations, especially when a group of staff members started attempting to download large files over the wireless network.

While “speeds and feeds” have improved with various versions of WiFi over the years, I still recognize that this is a shared network medium, which essentially means that the available bandwidth from an access point is shared by all the devices associated with this access point.  This is different from modern wired network connections, which offers dedicated bandwidth to the devices “plugged in” or connected to these wired ports.  But at some point the convenience of wireless connectivity has overshadowed the benefits of dedicated bandwidth.  In fact, I’m seeing is that less than 25% of the wired ports in our Residence Halls are actively used.  I’ve also observed that 96% of the DHCP offer and renew events on an average day, at our campus, are associated with the wireless network.

So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the expectations surrounding WiFi connectivity.  Given the fact fewer cellular carrier are offering unlimited data plans, I recognize that tech-savvy customers are more mindful of where they can attach to WiFi networks.

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