Many hotels have stopped charging for wireless Internet, and it’s about time airports followed suit. Recently, while traveling for business, I had to connect through 3 different airports. Two had free WiFi, one did not. Now this is just ridiculous – the airport that was charging for WiFi wanted $9 to connect. My layover lasted about 2 hours. I doubt very many people spend more than 2 or 3 hours using the WiFi. At least at a hotel, you’re probably going to be there for at least 12 to 16 hours, and thus can justify the cost – which by the way, is pretty similar to what the airport was charging.
What’s particularly upsetting, is knowing that when an airport charges for WiFi, it’s purely to add to the balance sheet. There isn’t any real overhead related to providing WiFi to a few hundred or a few thousand people. Once you’ve dealt with the routers, which you would need anyway for lots of other airport specific functions – all that’s left is the potential for supporting an increase in bandwidth.
Having been involved in the Telecommunications Expense Management industry for several years, I know what it costs to equip a facility, large or small, with adequate download and upload speeds to support a large userbase. And the truth is, it’s not much. Even a small regional airport probably has enough extra bandwidth to support the average WiFi community without adding to the telecommunications expenses it already incurs. Furthermore, it would be simple to block high bandwidth traffic, such as video streaming, which leaves basic web browsing – and basic web browsing doesn’t require much bandwidth or concurrency.
Bottom line is, in the year 2010, it’s ridiculous and kind of insulting to arrive at an airport and be faced with paying close to $10 just to access the Internet.