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U.S. Airport Wi-Fi Networks: Who Soars? Who Fails to Take Flight?

Government Technology takes a look at airport Wi-Fi networks in the U.S. that pass and fail on providing free and fast Wi-Fi connectivity.

by / October 11, 2013

Waiting in an airport terminal can often seem endless, especially if you have long layovers or flight delays. But with technology upgrades in various international airports within the U.S., passing the time can be a little more bearable, specifically when these airports provide Wi-Fi.

Government Technology’s select list identifies airports that have in recent years made efforts to deploy free Wi-Fi, but acknowledges those that have not quite taken flight. So the next time you jet set, be sure to keep an eye on the following airports.

Soaring High

1.    Sacramento International Airport (Calif.) – SMF

After SMF’s Terminal B received a $1.03 billion upgrade in October 2011, which included some major technology overhaul, the airport rose in the ranks as one of the nation’s most tech-friendly airports.

2.    Detroit Metropolitan Airport – DTW

Last month, DTW announced a free and unlimited Wi-Fi service upgrade in both of the airport’s terminals provided by Advanced Wireless Group LCC. Prior to September’s Wi-Fi launch, the airport’s Wi-Fi connectivity was only available through a paid subscription provided by Boingo Wireless.

Flying at Low Altitude

O’Hare International Airport (Chicago) – ORD

Travelers departing or arriving in Chicago’s O’Hare may be excited to learn that last spring free Wi-Fi was launched at the airport, but there’s a catch. The free access only gets users access to about 30 websites with information like weather and news as well as shopping sites. Unfortunately for frequent checkers of Facebook, the social media website is not available through O’Hare’s Wi-Fi connection.

Still Taxiing

1.    Los Angeles International Airport – LAX

After a much hyped upgrade to LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, the airport still falls short on one major area: free and unlimited Wi-Fi. After investing $1.9 billion into the terminal, the airport still only provides free Wi-Fi service for up to 45 minutes. After that, patrons can use the older service that offers connectivity at $4.95 an hour or $7.95 for a day.

2.    Honolulu International Airport – HNL

Honolulu may be a popular getaway destination for U.S. and world travelers, but the island’s airport Wi-Fi won’t make the trip seem like fun in the sun. According to Airfarewatchdog, Honolulu has one of the most expensive Wi-Fi service plans in the nation, totaling $6.96 for two hours of use and $8.95 for the day.

Airports to Watch

Although some airports still require a user fee to access Wi-Fi in their terminals, a few of those may receive an upgrade to free connectivity in the near future. Here’s a look at a few airports to watch.

1.    LaGuardia Airport (NYC) – LGA
2.    John F. Kennedy International Airport (NYC) – JFK
3.    Newark Liberty International (N.J.) – EWR

All three airports currently require users to pay $4.95 an hour and $7.95 daily for Wi-Fi connectivity in their terminals, but that may be about to change. The airports are currently under contract to provide Wi-Fi service from Boingo, but the contract is almost complete.

City Council members have signed onto a resolution that requests the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to renegotiate its contract with Boingo by ending the requirement for travelers to pay for Wi-Fi connectivity. No official decision has been made as of yet.

Which other U.S. airport Wi-Fi networks soar or taxi? Sound off in the comment section below.

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Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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