Editor’s note: I’m still in recovery mode from Sun ‘n Fun, so today you get a best-of. It’s inspired by the Facebook plea of one of my friends, Sree Sreenivasan, Dean of Student Affairs and digital media professor, at the Columbia University Journalism School. He was desperately searching for a power outlet at JFK Airport late last week, and I pointed him to the Air Power Wiki (I’m a contributor!). So enjoy this piece on paid versus free WiFi below, originally published Oct. 20, 2011. Enjoy!
On Sunday, I was checking my Facebook account when I saw a post from my friend Michelle, who was upset about having to pay for WiFi at Los Angeles International Airport. She had left her hotel early (which DID have free WiFi), so she could do work at the airport.
I explained that just like at home, or if you own a WiFi card, it costs airports to provide that service. And in the past 10 years, airports have been squeezed on the revenue side thanks to airline mergers and service cuts, paying for unfunded mandates and underfunded Federal Aviation Administration programs that cover a facilities.
So with that, airports have to find a way to cover those costs. Some, like Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, offer free WiFi in exchange for looking at on-screen advertising. Some have a company or companies sponsor their WiFi. Others, like Boston Logan, ask you to fill out a survey or watch a video to get free WiFi for an hour, then switch you over to a provider where you pay from there.
Others — including LAX, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and my hometown Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport — partner with companies like Boingo for paid WiFi.
So before your next trip, check out the websites below to see if you’re getting free WiFi or if you’re going to be shelling out for the privilege!