Loews Coronado Bay-San Diego is one of the hotels featuring a TravelZoo discounted rate.

Loews Coronado Bay-San Diego is one of the hotels where wireless Internet access will be free to guests. Faster Wi-Fi will cost extra. (Loews Hotels / January 31, 2014)

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In most luxury hotels, if you want wireless Internet access, you are going to have to pay.

That trend may be changing. Sort of.

Loews Hotels & Resorts announced last month that it will offer free Wi-Fi at all 18 of its hotels nationwide, including the ones in Hollywood, Santa Monica and San Diego. If you want faster Internet to connect up to eight devices, however, that will cost $19.95 per day.

In the past, many luxury hotels offered only one choice: Wi-Fi at a hefty price. Previously, Loews charged about $15 to $20 per day for the slower Internet that it now offers free of charge.

A survey by the American Hotel and Lodging Assn. found that 84% of luxury hotel chains charge for Wi-Fi access, while only 8% of economy hotel chains do.

But hotel experts say many luxury hotels are moving toward a “tiered” Wi-Fi program, in which guests get a choice of average-speed Wi-Fi for free or high-speed Wi-Fi at an extra charge.

Hilton Worldwide recently announced that it would begin offering fast Wi-Fi connections for a fee starting at $3.95 per day in hotels where slower Wi-Fi is already free of charge.

The company said it will start offering the tiered Wi-Fi in the U.S. in the next two months at the Hampton, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton brands. It will be rolled out worldwide to those brands later this year.

“An increasing number of our guests are carrying multiple devices and different kinds of devices, and they want higher-speed Internet,” said Josh Weiss, Hilton’s vice president of brand and guest technology.

How much faster? Weiss declined to give exact numbers but said the Wi-Fi would be “appreciably faster,” enabling guests to stream high-definition video on their devices.

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