Major airline to provide own airport Wi-Fi, gets FCC OK

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has ruled that Continental Airlines can continue to offer free Wi-Fi access through its own selected carrier in its Presidents Club Lounges.

Continental has 27 Presidents Club lounges in airports worldwide, each of which provides free Internet access for its members and visitors to the lounges.

“Today, we strike a victory for the Wi-Fi revolution in the cradle of the American Revolution,” said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein in a statement. “The Wi-Fi movement embodies the spirit of American freedom, and in our action we say, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ The movement has been one of the great telecommunications success stories because it enables American consumers and businesses to offer and receive broadband services at the most local levels — at any time, in any place.”

Massport, the state agency that operates Logan Airport in Boston, sought to remove Continental’s Wi-Fi antenna and force the airline to use Massport’s carrier.

Last year, Massport asked the airline to stop offering its customers free Wi-Fi service, saying it presented an unacceptable risk to other communications equipment at the airport.

In addition, Massport officials claimed that Continental was violating its lease by offering the free service and said that if the airline did not remove its antenna, the state agency would take “all necessary steps to have the antenna removed.”

Continental then filed a petition for relief with the FCC in July 2005 stating that the FCC’s regulations preempted the lease restrictions that Massport tried to enforce.

“In a resounding victory to the airline and to consumers, the FCC has affirmed its rules pertaining to the installation and use of wireless antennae, which prohibit landlords, such as airports, from restricting this service in areas under the control of the airline,” Continental said in a statement.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said in a statement that the declaratory ruling reaffirms the commission’s dedication to the widespread deployment of unlicensed Wi-Fi devices.

“It clarifies that American consumers and businesses are free to install Wi-Fi antennas under our OTARD [Over-the-Air Reception Devices] rules — meaning without seeking approval from their landlords — just as they are free to install antennas for video programming and other fixed wireless applications,” he said.

Massport officials could not be reached for comment.

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