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From high-end business chains like Four Seasons to budget lodging brands like Travelodge and Howard Johnson, hotels are promising guests rooms equipped with high-speed Internet connections. But hotels have a long way to go to accommodate lawyers accustomed to blazing Internet speeds at home and in the office. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found an Ethernet hub on the back of the desk in my room and said to myself, ‘Great!’ … but then been told that it won’t be available until three days after I check out,” says Sheryn Bruehl, a partner at Bruehl and Chapman in Norman, Oklahoma. The first time that Bruehl found a working high-speed connection in a hotel was at the BWI Marriott in Baltimore last year. That’s no surprise: The Marriott chain ( www.marriott.com; 888-236-2427) is a leader in providing Internet high-speed access; it expects to have 500 of its 2,000 hotels fully wired by the end of this year. But most hotel chains lag much further behind in helping guests avoid dial-up-connection hell. For many lawyers, the slow connection speeds on the road are annoying but not disabling. “Sure, I’m impatient, and the fact that I have to wait two minutes to send an e-mail is unbearable, but it’s a minor irritation, and not anything that impedes my practice,” says Daniel Coolidge, an intellectual property lawyer with Fish & Richardson in Boston. Others are less understanding. Bruce Dorner, a solo practitioner in Londonderry, New Hampshire, exchanges documents with clients, accesses files on his office network, and conducts research at such sites as Westlaw, LOIS, and Lexis-Nexis. “You can’t do that with a 16K connection,” he says. So what are your best bets for finding a high-speed connection on the road? W Hotels ( www.whotels.com; 877-946-6837), a luxury chain launched in December 1998 by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, offers high-speed Internet access in all 13 of its properties, including Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. All 90 or hotels in the new Wingate Inns chain (mott Built for Business) are wired for high-speed access ( www.wingateinns.com; 800-228-1000). Besides Marriott, Hilton ( www.hilton.com; 800-774-1500) also is a leader among the larger chains. It has installed a high-speed Internet system in 130 of its hotels, but not in every room. The luxury Four Seasons ( www.fourseasons.com; 800-819-5053) chain has announced plans to wire all of its hotels worldwide by early 2001. Locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, New York, and Austin already are offering high-speed access. The race to go high-speed has gone decidedly middle-market. A trio of solidly mainstream chains — Ramada ( www.ramada.com; 888-298-2054), Howard Johnson ( www.hojo.com; 800-406-1411) and Travelodge ( www. travelodge.com; 800-819-5053) — recently announced plans to wire all of their properties for high-speed access. Like most hotels that offer fast connections, these chains will charge about $10 a day for the service. A number of hotels are creating a wave by offering wireless connectivity for users of laptops, handheld computers, and other devices. Usually the service reaches only into meeting rooms and other common areas but eventually will be available in individual rooms, too. Guests, beware: You still need a wireless PC card. Hotels like the new W Suites in Newark, near San Jose, Calif., get around this problem by providing wireless PC cards to laptop users. Guests can be relaxing in the living room-like W Cafe and Bar and even the outer pool and Zen-influenced garden and receive e-mail or surf the Web. On the other end of the hotel industry food chain, Houston’s modest Shoney’s Inn and Suites ( www.shoneysinn.com; 800-552-4667) also is providing wireless connectivity. “Our proximity to high-tech companies such as Compaq, GTE, [and] MobileNet makes us a favorite among business travelers, so we wanted to go further than just providing dataports,” says a spokesman. Other hotels, like New York’s boutique Avalon ( www.theavalonny.com; 888-442-8256) and the Hawthorn Suites chain ( www.hawthorn.com; 800-527-1133), go one step beyond and offer guests the use of laptops or in-room PCs that they can use to go online. This comes in handy if you can retrieve your messages from any of a number of Web-based e-mail services offered by Yahoo, Hotmail, and others. Meanwhile, Hilton is working on a system to allow guests to use wireless devices such as Palm Pilots and pagers to make reservations, get directions, and access phone numbers and other hotel information. Soon the chain will unveil a Web site accessible to wireless users, according to Bruce Rosenberg, Hilton’s senior vice president of e-commerce. The site will be tailored to individual guests’ needs and occupations. There is even a site planned for the legal profession. WIRED FOR SPEED Hotel chains offering high speeds in at least some of their rooms: Four Seasons ( www.fourseasons.com; 800-819-5053) Hilton ( www.hilton.com; 800-774-1500) Howard Johnson ( www.hojo.com; 800-406-1411) Marriott ( www.marriott.com; 888-236-2427) Ramada ( www.ramada.com; 888-298-2054) Shoney’s ( www.shoneysinn.com; 800-552-4667) Travelodge ( www.travelodge.com; 800-819-5053) W Hotels ( www.whotels.com; 877-946-6837) Wingate Inns ( www.wingateinns.com; 800-228-1000)

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