New WiFi battle front: Airlines vs. airports

This may not be the equivalent of dumping tea into the harbor, but something is brewing in Boston which may have consequence nationwide. Authorities at Boston's Logan Airport continue their campaign to prohibit airlines in the airport from offering free WiFi in their lounges and VIP suites. The airport authority says it has nothing to do with money, but that it is rather an issue of public safety and management. The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), which charges a minimum of $7.95 per day for public WiFi access throughout Logan Airport, sent a letter to airport tenant Continental Airlines last summer demanding that the airline turn off the antenna which provided free WiFi access to its President Club lounge in Logan's Terminal C. Continental Airlines offers complimentary WiFi to its frequent flyers in more than 20 airport lounges throughout the country.

Continental responded by filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission last July, asking the FCC to overturn the order. The FCC is still debating the issue, allowing different interested parties to take sides in the controversy, the result of which will have consequences in every airport around the country. The Air Transport Association (ATA) and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) support Continental. Safety organizations and the Airports Council International (ACI) side with Massport. Massport argues that too many WiFi antennas could be a safety concern, even though dedicated public safety networks and WLANs do not share the same frequency. Still, if, in an emergency, public safety agencies wanted to use WiFi, the proliferation of WiFi antennas in the airport could cause signal interference.

For more on the Logan WiFi controversy:
- read Carmen Nobel's PCMag report

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