Thursday, August 04, 2005
I love free Wi-Fi: There's really little I enjoy more than sitting down in a coffee shop or Panera Bread store, pulling out my laptop and surfing the Web while I eat lunch. If you want to get me in your restaurant, give me free Wi-Fi. Continental Airlines understands this, which is why it offers free Wi-Fi access to members of its frequent-flyer club at airports across the nation. That is, except maybe for Boston's Logan International Airport if airport authorities get their way.
In an escalating series of threatening letters sent over the last few weeks, airport officials have pledged to "take all necessary steps to have the (Wi-Fi) antenna removed" from Continental's frequent flyer lounge. Continental's free service poses an "unacceptable potential risk" to communications gear used by the state police and the Transportation Security Administration, the letters claim.
For its part, Continental says that a 1996 law prevents local officials from meddling with wireless service and has asked the Federal Communications Commission to intervene. Its letter to the FCC argues that the agency has "exclusive jurisdiction" over Wi-Fi and should keep local authorities at bay.
The kicker is that airport authorities aren't really concerned with safety -- they don't like the competition. The airport has its own wireless service, but it costs $7.95 per day. Somehow the airport's own wireless nodes are substantively different when it comes to interfering with TSA and police communications than Continental's -- yeah right.