I think Marriott has ownership in or a major stake in i-Bahn, the full service ISP, and this is a cash cow for the chain. We used to need the data ports for dial up remember, and the 800 numbers we used for access were free to call, there was no time limit. Now at many places the 800 calls are time limited and cost something (as much as 2 dollars), and we don't need the data ports (even though they are still there.
By the way, there is a good reason not to use the wireless or some wired internet even if it is free. This Cornell Study of 147 lodging locations found that most hotels had no Internet security or firewall protection for their guests. Using the Internet is like sending important by carrier pigeon over enemy terriitory: business and personal data sent without any encryption or firewalls becomes vulnerable to hackers.
My advice would be connect with a virtual private network if possible and to try to use Web sites with Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protection. Always look for key-required WPA encyrption for your wireless nets, and buy a certificate for security from Verisign and then encrypt all your emails. Lastly, surf safely when in any Marriott hotel--the walls have ears!
I saw Bill Marriott Jr. interviewed on CEO Exchange, last year and he was asked this same question. The moderator was perplexed by the fact that the more expensive properties charge for Internet access and the lesser ones don't. Jr. said that the policy was market driven and indeed a good source of revenue and if I'm not mistaken, said that customers were willing to pay for it.
Interesting to note that this week the entire Shangra La hotel chain throughout the world are now including free Internet access in all areas, in all hotels, for all rates from now on. A bold move which perhaps others will follow.
I'm with you -- the Marriott brand should offer this very popular service across all their brands. Makes no sense not to. Choosing a hotel with free internet is usually one of my requirements when I travel. I book blocks of rooms for events we have at work, and usually choose Courtyards because of the free internet.