Massport Loses its Wifi Monopoly at Logan Airport

As a “regular” of Logan Airport's Terminal C (perhaps a little too regular), I know how to get free wifi there. If you take your laptop to the seats near the Terminal C side of the walkway joining Terminals B and C, you'll be within range of the Continental President's Club's open wifi connection. I discovered this trick while stuck at the airport for hours during the blizzard of January 2005.

If you want to access wifi anywhere else in Logan, the only way to do it was to fork over US$7.95 to use the wifi service run by Massport, the public authority responsible for running airports, seaports and the transportation infrastructure in the state of Massachusetts. Massport has always jealously guarded its wifi monopoly in the airport, forbidding tenants to run their own wifi access points, citing bogus safety reasons. In addition to their long-standing wi-feud with Continental, Massport has also crossed swords with T-Mobile, forcing them to shut down their Terminal B access points and threatened Delta with legal action if they offered wifi in Terminal A.

The two-year battle between Continental and Massport ended yesterday when the FCC issued its ruling in Continental's favor, stating that they have a clear right to offer their own wifi service (one of the standard amenities of the President's Club). Hopefully, this ruling will set a precedent that prevents landlords from forcing their tenants to use a landlord-controlled wifi service.

The general reaction to the decision has been positive, but it can't hold a candle to the over-the-top statement made by FCC commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein:

Today we strike a victory for the WiFi revolution in the cradle of the American Revolution…The WiFi movement embodies the spirit of American freedom, and in our action we say “Don't tread on me.”

One wonders what he'll say if we ever get network neutrality enshrined in law or practice.

Not everyone's cheering, however: David DeJean over at InformationWeek believes that it's a victory for big business. Massport, he argues, is a government agency and as such was providing a public service for a minimal charge. He states that the ruling effectively privatizes a public service and that in the end, it was just the FCC serving its corporate masters at the expense of the public. I think my bullshit detector is about to overload.