Closing The (Local) Loop
This Makes Net Neutrality Look Tame

Sacramento Airport Gives Away Wireless

As a frequent, almost every other week flier in and out of Sacramento International Airport I have been a regular user of the WiFi service that was run by Icoacorp and accessable via my Boingo Wireless account. As such, I was intrigued when I saw that the airport was dropping the paid model for a free access one. I sure hope the service is better or at the very least, as good as it was when it worked. You see, I'm a believer in the axiom "that you get what you pay for" and that free takes away any reason to be assured something will work as promised.

Did Icoacorp have to lose Sacramento airport? Given the number of issues I had logging on in various ends of the Southwest terminal over the past 18 months and the fact that other airports are going free, I can see why the airport authority would want to make a switch. Icoacorp always blamed the Mac, and sometimes on the Nomadix hardware and software for issues I had with logging on sometimes, especially at Gate 17. Since I used Boingo as my access provider and in their defense I always found their support team working hard to fix connectivity issues, but since they had to work through a third party, ICOA, there was always a lag time in getting the access points working with Macintosh laptops whenever there was a software update that made the Mac more secure.

But I see roles for both Boingo and ICOA at airports and other public places. And that would be to offer the "better" grade of Internet access. I think the airport should offer the free service at say one meg. But when users want a more enhanced experience the private operators should provide them the better grade of service and features.

You should also realize that I actually went to the full rate Boingo $21.95 plan as I fly in
and out of Sacramento and San Diego airports 8 flights a month, making
it a good deal for me as the break even point was after flight number 3. Now, as more airports and municipalities add free WiFi at airports
and other transportaion hubs I have to question my expenditure on Boingo, as the
free service, plus EvDO (once it comes to my new Mac in June) means less of a need for more accounts beyond
T-Mobile's Hotspot service, which I have found to be the most
consistent and useful around. So while I question the need, I'll likely keep more tabs on just how many place I go per month use Boingo and then decide.

Tomorrow I fly out of Sacramento, I'll be interested in seeing what the service is like and if there are any connectivity issues who I now have to call.

Comments

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Andy Abramson

EVDO will work via Verizon or Sprint in the USA. Verizon has a card due in June.

The MacBook Pro is using PC Express 34 slots, not PCMCIA rendering old cards useless.

Palash

Very interesting piece, and a fine blog. Having read your blog occasionallly in the past I've now (after deciding to stop raging and love the blogosphere) added it to the subs in my dangerously distracting new NewsWireLite installation.

Here's where I'm particularly curious: You mention "EvDO (once it comes to my new Mac in June) " What new mac is this, and why will EvDO come to it in June? I'm a writer, occasional doc-film-maker and Mac-head, based in London England, but often travelling, especially to the US. I'm probably about to migrate from GPRS to 3G for my occasional (non-wifi) mobile data needs in the UK, using Bluetooth connectivity between my phone and my Mac. And I'm told that CDMA is good in India (where I'm currently visiting). I presume I'll want EvDO for US usage. I'm also going to get me an Intel MacBookPro soon. Are EvDO cards not yet available for Macs? Will EvDO be usable with the new MacBookPros which lack a trad PCMCIA slot?

Andy Abramson

As the story in the local paper says:

The airport closed out its contract with Airport Network this month, and officials decided to make the service free.

"Our customers have been asking for this," said airport spokeswoman Karen Doron.

"We felt it was more important to offer this service for free, rather than make a little money off it.

Indeed, the airport's share of the $6.95 access fees went to pay off Airport Network for the equipment it had installed, Doron said.

What does that say to you?

flycatcher

keep us posted. i'm interested to know what the wifi customer service is like there. btw, are you sure they dropped ICOA as opposed to just switching to a free service still managed by them? From what I can gather, ICOA is actually a pretty big fan of free Wi-Fi - managing the free networks at Denny's, Panera Bread, Stop & Shop as well as Boise Airport and umm... Gerald Ford Int'l Airport.

A lot of these WISPs are transitioning their business models to generate revenues from ads to allow for free access. So I'm not sure that this necessarily means ICOA and/or Boingo are out of the picture. Well, you'll find out soon enough. Let us know.

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