Before you tell me to go do this, I did – and I still don’t have a good answer.
I was reminded of this issue when I learned that a couple of friends were off this weekend to the snowy Rocky Mountain West attending the 2009 Carnivore Conference: Carnivore Conservation in a Changing World sponsored by Defenders of Wildlife at the Grand Hyatt Denver. Some of these folks are graduate students and freelance writers who are on tight budgets.
The most recent article I found on this issue was by Barbara E. Hernandez at BNET. She asked the same question as I, made some observations, and asked rhetorically why high-end hotels don’t seize on such a low-cost, good-will amenity instead of aggravating us all with yet another charge.
I suspect that the answer is, “because they can.”
I suspect that marketing studies show that people who can afford to stay at expensive hotels (or, more likely, who are doing so on a business’s dime) don’t really care about another $9.95-$12.95/day Wi-Fi charge whereas someone staying in a $40/night hotel isn’t going to pay another 25% for internet when they can go down the street and get it for free at another budget hotel.
So, why do we tolerate it when we go to a big scientific conference?