By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press Writer
Logan International Airport is trying to block Continental Airlines
Inc. from providing free wireless Internet access to its frequent
fliers -- a service for which the airport charges a daily $7.95 fee --
calling it a threat to safety and security.
The Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan, claims
Continental's Wi-Fi service interferes with other wireless devices.
Continental rejects that claim and argues Massport has no legal
authority to restrict its use of the technology.
Massport ordered Continental to remove the Wi-Fi antenna from its
Presidents Club lounge by July 9, prompting the Houston-based airline
to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.
An FCC spokesman said the complaint is the first of its kind involving
Wi-Fi access at airports. The agency isn't expected to rule on the
dispute before Aug. 29, its deadline for accepting public comments on
A Massport spokesman declined to comment on Continental's complaint.
All 27 of Continental's frequent-flier lounges at airports have
offered free Wi-Fi service since last December. The airline's lounge
at Logan has offered the wireless connection since June 2004, but a year
passed before Logan notified Continental in writing that the Wi-Fi
antenna violated the terms of its lease.
Last month, a Massport attorney warned the airline that its antenna
"presents an unacceptable potential risk" to Logan's safety and
security systems, including its keycard access system and state police
Massport told the airline it could route its wireless signals over
Logan's Wi-Fi signal, at a "very reasonable rate structure." In
response, however, Continental said using Logan's Wi-Fi vendor could
force the airline to start charging its customers for the service.
Craig Mathias, founder of the Farpoint Group, a wireless consulting
firm in Ashland, Mass., said Wi-Fi signals can interfere with each
other, but not with other wireless devices.
"It's hard to imagine how this is a security threat," Mathias
said. "They clearly don't want the competition."
Continental argues that restrictions on the installation and use of
Wi-Fi antennas are prohibited under FCC regulations.
"We believe that offering the free Wi-Fi service at Logan is
consistent with FCC regulations and its prior rulings, and is
permitted by the terms of our lease with Massport," Continental
spokeswoman Julie King said Thursday.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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