TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: FCC Says Boston Airport Authorities Cannot Stop Airline's Broadband

FCC Says Boston Airport Authorities Cannot Stop Airline's Broadband

Jeremy Pelofsky (
Wed, 20 Sep 2006 21:01:22 -0500

FCC seen backing airline's broadband at Logan
By Jeremy Pelofsky

Boston airport authorities cannot stop Continental Airlines from
offering wireless Internet service in its frequent flier lounge under
a proposed Federal Communications Commission ruling, sources familiar
with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Massachusetts Port Authority, or Massport, instructed airlines in
2005 to unplug their wireless and wireline high-speed Internet access
in frequent flier lounges at Boston-Logan International Airport and
use the fee-based system the airport was launching.

Continental petitioned the FCC to keep its free service running and
was later supported by wireless service providers, other airlines and
package delivery service United Parcel Service.

Massport contends the rival services would interfere with its network
offered at Logan, raise safety concerns, and violate lease agreements.

But FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has proposed backing Continental's
request, said the sources, who include telecommunications lawyers.

The proposed ruling favoring Continental has been sent to the four
other FCC commissioners for a vote, the sources said. Martin would
have to win the support of at least two commissioners for it to pass.

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment. Massport officials were not
immediately available for comment.

"We are optimistic that the FCC will confirm Continental's right,
consistent with the agency's existing rules, to continue providing
free Wi-Fi service to Continental customers at Logan and other
airports," said Continental spokesman Dave Messing.

If Continental wins, the FCC ruling could serve as a precedent for
other airlines and Internet service providers to offer airport
Internet access, often sought by business travelers.

Wireless communications provider T-Mobile USA withdrew its service
from American Airlines' lounge at Boston airport as a result of the
Massport demand.

Continental offers the Internet access to members of its frequent
flier club for free and told the FCC that the cost for using the
Massport system was "unknown and potentially higher than what it costs
Continental to operate its own antenna."

The airlines and wireless providers cited the FCC's Over-the-Air
Reception Devices regulations as the justification for allowing them
to offer the Wi-Fi service.

Massport countered that those regulations do not authorize
Continental's service. It told the FCC that the airline's system has
already caused interference with other users at the airport.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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