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LAX Not Actually Getting Free WiFi

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Wed, Jun 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge Deceptively space-age.
  • Deceptively space-age.
Despite being one of the nation's busiest airports, LAX is having a really hard time adjusting to the 21st century. Most glaringly, as we're sure you've noticed, L.A.'s international hub lacks the next most important element after air and water: free Wifi. Up to now, T-Mobile has been charging a whopping $9.99 to connect. (Perhaps contributing to LAX's status as most hated airport for business travelers.)

But all that was scheduled to change as soon as early September 2012...

... when Advanced Wireless Group, a Miami company, planned to set up service. The airport would have paid Advanced Wireless $663,333 to provide two years of wifi throughout LAX.

The only downside? Half-minute advertisements at the start of each session, much like those tacked onto the beginning of YouTube videos and other online TV episodes. Annoying, yes, but a hell of a lot better than $9.99.

Yesterday, however, the L.A. City Council -- who just can't stand to see us so happy/convenienced -- threw a wrench in the contract, demanding that LAX open the bidding process to other companies besides Advanced Wireless.

Which, we admit, is generally a good idea, and one the L.A. City Council itself might try adhering to once in a while.

But a deal as relatively cheap (and dire) as the LAX wifi contract is the wrong good-government battle for City Councilmembers to fight.

Take, for example, Councilman Joe Buscaino's suggestion for an alternate bidder: Boingo Wireless. Yes, it's a local company, but according to the L.A. Times, it's also "the largest provider of wireless Internet access in the world" -- a real mom-and-pop sob story.

Airport commissioners, who admittedly treat the LAX budget like a bottomless pit of fake arcade coins (always arguing that it's private income, when really these are indirect taxpayer funds that could easily be used elsewhere), now complain that the Advanced WIreless contract was vetted by the L.A. City Attorney, and that a wifi bidding war could take up to two years.

While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, we don't have half that long to wait. Soon, the T-Mobile contract will be up, and LAX passengers won't even have the crummy $9.99 option to fall back on.

According to the Times:

The council now has 21 days to review the matter and decide whether to accept or reject the contract. A two-thirds majority vote is required. The council's Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee is scheduled to discuss the matter next week.

You want to see community outrage? Go ahead and quarantine LAX into the only Internet-free bubble in modern urban America. We dare you.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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