Service failure inversion

SXSW this year is the first big conference I’ve ever attended where the wi-fi is not only solid, but fast. I’ve meaured a steady 20Mb upstream and down, over and over. HUGE high five to Hugh Forrest and the crew for making that happen.

At the same time, this is the first conference I’ve ever attended where a cellular provider has just flat-out failed. In this case it’s AT&T, and I’ll bet it’s because the majority of attendees are packing iPhones. I’m one of them.

Om said on Sunday that AT&T was to have added capacity to their downtown Austin cell facilities. It made no difference, far as I could tell, by the end of Monday. Today (Tuesday) I’m at my hotel on phone calls until late this morning.

Meanwhile my hotel, the OMNI, isn’t doing much better. While I’m getting okay cell service here from AT&T, my Sprint data card is getting very slow data rates over the Sprint 3G network. But that’s the best I can do because wi-fi at the OMNI is terrible. Once in awhile I’ll get a good wi-fi signal, but then it goes away. Sometimes the speeds are good (up to 5Mb up and down), then: nothing. I arrived last Friday night. When I told the front desk about it, they said they were aware of the problem, and were working on it. Meanwhile they woud try to find me a “wi-fi bridge”. Never used one of those. May never, either, because they never got me one. “All of ours are loaned out,” they told me a few minutes ago. When I pressed the woman behind the counter for hope that the problem would be solved, she told me “we’ve taken it all the way up to the manager.” My message for that manager: this is unacceptable. For many customers, especially during shows like SXSW, Internet access is as essential as a working shower.

At least it’s free for guests who sign up for the hotel’s loyalty program, which at least allows you to opt out of promotional junk. But it also raises expectations, for example by asking you to check off which of four newspapers you like to get. I checked them all, expecting to see the now-customary USA Today outside my door in the morning. Alas, it wasn’t there. Putting a USA Today outside one’s door has become pro forma at higher-priced hotels, of which the OMNI is one. I suspect that’s one reason why USA Today is one of the very few papers with increasing circulation. But I dunno.

For what it’s worth, the OMNI is excellent most other respects. Very comfortable beds. Good shower. So, if you don’t care about the Internet, I recommend it.

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