The Fight Over Massport WiFi

Massport Logo.I do a lot of flying in and out of Boston’s Logan Airport, so I’ve been following the controversy about WiFi there with some interest.

The story is that Massport, the government agency that runs the airport, is trying to tell tennents — like the airlines — that they can’t operate their own WiFi networks. But the FCC previously ruled that landowners had no authority can control use of the WiFi spectrum on their premises.

Glenn Fleishman pointed out a November 25 editorial about the matter. The editorial calls Massports action a “frequency grab” and suggests a likely reason for Massports unusual interest in the matter:

[T]he airport has granted a monopoly to one provider that charges $7.95 a day, part of which comes back to the airport.

Massport’s complaint is about potential interference or use by terrorists, but Fleishman notes that

If Wi-Fi interferes with airport purposes than the airport is not operating itself correctly, and the TSA, FAA, and FCC should assert control over their use of spectrum until it’s sorted out.

The editorial remarks that the airport’s complaints don’t pass the “common sense test”

The airwaves in and around airports are used for hundreds of purposes, including cellphones, taxicab radios and local law enforcement. Yet Massport would have us believe that only Wi-Fi poses a problem.

Meanwhile, Atlanta has gone wireless, and Fleishman can’t help buy point out:

[N]ote that Atlanta is not whining, like Boston, about several existing Wi-Fi networks operated by airlines and others interfering with critical systems and emergency response.