Free WiFi Catching On At Airports

from the making-the-point... dept

In discussions about when can you charge for WiFi and when should it be free, we’ve always said that in charging you either need to have a captive audience with no other options or offer something really special above and beyond regular WiFi that people value (but it’s unclear if there really is that much people will consider worth it). In the case of the captive audience issue, about the only places that made sense were hotels or airports. However, even the argument for charging in those places has been breaking down. With hotels, travelers have a competitive choice, and many business travelers are factoring in whether or not the hotel offers free WiFi – which explains story after story of free WiFi in hotels. I still figured airports might hold out, but that argument seems to be falling apart as well. First off, there’s some competition between the airports themselves and the airlines – so it’s not an entirely captive situation. Second, there is some competition in terms of convincing travelers to fly through specific airports and that’s leading many more airports to start offering free WiFi as well. As a datapoint on this, I’ve used the free WiFi at the JetBlue terminal in JFK (and even posted to Techdirt from there) and it makes me look to JetBlue first when flying in, out or through NYC. So, while some are still trying to figure out how to charge for WiFi, it seems like it will be increasingly difficult to sustain a business model that relies entirely on fees for access.

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