San Francisco International is finally getting free Wi-Fi, which should make traveling a little easier for me and the millions of others that pass through the airport every year. I think free (and account free) Wi-Fi should be offered at all airports in this day and age. Being able to grab an Internet connection at an airport can make traveling less of a hassle and has the potential to save airline employees a lot of time in answering travelers’ questions. The San Jose Mercury mentioned that the free Wi-Fi would start flowing on September, but it didn’t get into details of who’s sponsoring it.
SFO, my local airport, currently offers Wi-Fi access for a fee via a partnership with T-Mobile. I’ve only had to pay for Wi-Fi on a couple of occasions since I currently have a Novatel MiFi and owned various 3G modems for the past five years. On a couple of occasions I was in a hurry to upload large photo and video files for business purposes, making it necessary to connect to the $10/day airport network so I could deliver files before hoping on a long flight.
Since I use a MiFi, I don’t have to worry about getting online when traveling domestically. However, getting online when touching down in foreign countries can be a mixed bag. For example, in Frankfurt I had to pay a few Euros per hour during a long layover a couple of years ago. The charge wasn’t as much of a hassle as it was to make my way through the German-only account creation and user agreement. I saw a few Asian businessmen give up on accessing the DT network. Hong Kong International thankfully offers free Wi-Fi, but they have some sort of filtering in place. While I could reach most web sites, my iPhone’s applications weren’t allowed to access the Internet.
I’m hoping SFO’s free Wi-Fi doesn’t require travelers to jump through hoops and is just as speedy as the paid version. I think it’s the least airports could do for customers who are paying hundreds or thousands of dollars on flights, especially when they face long delays.