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I'm driving down a stretch of highway, and after coming around a corner, I see an odd speed limit sign that says "Don't drive too fast." That's it, no speed listed.  So I start doing 85 and few minutes later, a police officer pulls me over.

Police-Officers

"Sir, I'm going to have to give you a ticket."

"What? Why? What did I do?"

"You drove too fast." 

"How fast is too fast? The sign didn't list a speed limit."

"I say you were going too fast. That's all that matters."

"OK, then how fast can I go?"

"As fast as you want, as long as it's not too fast."

"But how will I know?"

"When I give you another ticket."

I was out of town last week on business. The Marriott I was staying at had free Wi-Fi, which was great, because I wanted to catch up on some of the shows I was going to miss (we were working somewhat late). I had set up my Eye-TV to record some shows, and also set it up so I could steam the programs. I watched "House" Monday evening after dinner, then tried to watch "Heroes" on Tuesday evening. It was very choppy, and finally just died – along with all my Internet access. I figured it was a problem with the hotel's Internet (I've seen it many times before at other hotels) so I watched on my iPhone over 3G and went to bed.

Next morning, I needed to get online to take care of some things at the home office, but the Internet was still dead. I tried rebooting in case it was on my end, but that didn't help. I was getting an IP address, but it just wouldn't go anywhere, so again I figured the hotel was having problems. I instead hooked up a company-provided 3G card and got into work that way. Slow, sure, but at least it worked.

After dinner and back in my room, I still couldn't get on the 'net, so I did the unthinkable – I called the tech support line. The tech took my name, the hotel phone number, and my room number, and put me on hold for a few minutes. Then he came back and told me I had been cut off for violating the terms of service. Wha?

I was told that I must have been streaming video and that was against the terms of service (TOS). He then told me he was required to read me sections of the TOS before he could turn my access back on. So after the lecture, my access was restored.

Now this is one of those systems that, even though free, requires you to log on and agree to the TOS (you know, the multi-page legalese that no one reads because you must agree or go away). This time, I copied them and saved them to a file. I searched for "video" and "streaming" and got no hits. So then I read the whole thing over, and I must have violated 2(n):

"You agree that you will not: (n) use the services for excessively high volume data transfers."

So what constitutes "high volume?" The tech told me I couldn't stream video. So if I had gone to Hulu instead would that have been "high volume?" Who knows? Only the third-party that Marriott contracted with. And the only way you'll find out is when you're cut off completely and call tech support. Couldn't they have you log in with an email address (they didn't, by the way, just a name) and send you a warning?

(And as an aside, I know many of you are saying, "Why didn't you go to Hulu instead of setting up your Eye-TV?" For some strange reason, I forget about it, because it seems the episodes I want to see are the ones Hulu doesn't usually have for some reason).

Yes, I'm sure I violated 2(n). I'm guilty. But for all I know, a low-res photo could've done the same thing, or a document copied from work. How can stay within the rules when I don't know what they are?

Oh, and Marriott – the 20th Century called, and they want their low-bandwidth Internet access back. I can't stream video? Have you guys been on the Internet in the last, oh 5 years or so? I can stream video to my phone over the 3G network but not on your broadband to the building?

Needless to say, I'm less than impressed with Marriott at the moment.

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  • Calvin

    Once again:

    What the Large Print giveth (HIGH SPEED INTERNET), the Small Print taketh away ( no streaming data ).

    I just don’t like that aspect of free internet offers. Tell me up front what I can or cannot do. That way I can plan accordingly.

    I fully understand your challenge Jack. I would expect that business people would be moving large amounts of data and Marriott does have a large business customer base. You would think they would design their access for their customer base. Especially at the rates they charge for a stay.

    Just my 2 Cents