Now that TSA requires that we all get to the airport early enough to have time to kill at the gate, it would be nice to be able to get some work done. For pennies per passenger, airports could offer free wireless networks. Instead, they’ve sold franchises to various outfits, including Yahoo!, which then charge for the service.
The $10 or whatever isn’t really a major problem, but the time it takes to sign up and pay is. Of course the airports are scrambling for revenue, but I for one would much rather have the charge built into the ticket price, just to save the time and the memorization of one more username and password. At one time both San Jose and Burbank were configured for free wireless; I don’t know whether that’s still true, or whether any other airports have gone that way, but I haven’t been in an airport that didn’t charge for wireless access in two years.
Since the airport authorities aren’t likely to give up whatever their rake-off is, I have an alternative to propose: sponsorship. Airports are full of good customers for various expensive purchases, and people logging in on their laptops from airports are probably from a better-than-average (from a marketer’s viewpoint) demographic even among airport users. Why shouldn’t Sony or Microsoft or Citigroup or AT&T bargain with the airport to be able, in return for providing free wireless access and paying some cash, to be able to put up signs around the airport and have an ad on the sign-in screen? Or maybe some advocacy group (EFF springs to mind) could find a donor willing to spring for whatever it would cost to provide a convenience to travelers while also for the group’s viewpoint.
Since the travelers are their customers, the airport authorities ought to be willing to sell sponsorships for somewhat less than they’re currently taking in from Yahoo! or whatever their current vendor is. I’m not competent to estimate the dollar figures involved, and for all I know this isn’t a new idea. I invite enlightenment from those more skilled in this art than I am.