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Hotels going broadband

By 2002, 80 percent of hotel rooms should have broadband Internet access

By next year, checking into a hotel won't necessarily mean worrying about local access numbers or waiting for modem-slow downloads.

With a surcharge and a little care in picking the right room, you'll be able to arrive, plug in, and get fast Internet access.

Hotels are scrambling to add broadband access to their guest, meeting, and conference rooms, according to a recent report from market research firm Cahners In-Stat Group.

The goal for these hotel chains is plug-and-play connectivity. You connect your notebook's Ethernet interface into a wall socket, boot up, and you're on the Internet.

There you can handle your office and personal e-mail (assuming that the company e-mail system is Internet-accessible), research your projects, or listen to MP3s.

Some hotels will offer more. For instance, Hyatt International will offer "cyberconcierges," Web pages with currency exchange rates, local city guides, flight schedules, and other information travellers will find useful.

Where you have computers, you need tech support. Both Hyatt International and Holiday Inn plan to offer around-the-clock support, for the most part contracted out to the companies setting up their systems.

Industry experts believe all major chains will follow suit. If a hotel wants to attract business clientele, broadband access soon will be not a luxury but an absolute necessity.

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