The Quantum Pontiff

Why Can’t They All be Sunports?

Speaking of airports, why can’t there be more airports like Albuquerque’s Sunport: free wireless and even nice places to plug in and lay out your laptop:
i-20ed5f69d0d3d5fea2229809ca306993-sunport.jpg


Actually this brings up a point I’ve often pondered while sitting in an airport refusing to pay the $9.99 to connect to the Internet. Seattle is quite the software city (Microsoft, Amazon, etc.) I would expect that a large number of employees from these software companies and their customers pass through the Seattle airport. And yet, when I go to the airport, there is no free wireless connection. :( You would think that it would be to these companies benefit to pay for a wireless connection at the airport. I mean I think it would certainly increase the productivity of their employees. Why don’t local companies subsidize free wireless at their local airport?

Comments

  1. #1 Rob Knop
    January 15, 2008

    Lubbock, TX has a small airport with a similar setup to what you describe here. Indeed, they go one step further: not only do they have free wireless, but they have tables with ethernet ports.

    Airports are like theme parks, hotels, move theaters, or sports stadiums. They have the ultimate in captive audience. The price of everything can be hugely inflated, because once you’re in there, you’re stuck. Airports have it really good because they’ve managed to convince the country to make it illegal to bring in your own liquids from outside, regardless of the container. (Sports stadiums already outlaw a lot.) This does absolute zilch for security, but is great for the people who sell hugely overpriced beverages inside the airport. We’ve also created a huge boon for them with our sporadically long security lines, meaning that more and more people arrive 2 hours before their flight– giving them lots of idle time inside the terminals if the security lines in fact aren’t bad that day.

    Re: companies subsidizing free wireless connections, I suspect that they may do so by paying for monthly subscriptions (at, you know, twice the cost of daily access) for their employees who fly a lot. But, yeah, they might come out ahead by subsidizing free wireless. I don’t expect it any time soon, however. The idea of “subsidizing something free for all” is anathema to the mentality of a lot of people and businesses… they want it free only for their people, not for everybody else– even if it’s good for them. I heard recently that a study showed that insurance companies would save money if, instead of having a formulary and paying people to deal with denying and approving drugs not in the formulary, they just approved anything perscribed by doctors. Yet, most/all health insurance plans have formularies. Once corporations reach a size large enough that they can sort of be viewed as independent entities– that is, with effective drives and motivations of their own which can’t be completely traced back to the drives and motivations of individuals within the corporation– they are not, despite the myth, just about making money. They are also about control. Indeed, lots of people are too. Having power and control over what people do is often just as much a motivation (if not more?) than rational profit strategies.

  2. #2 Joe Fitzsimons
    January 15, 2008

    I’ve started using mobile broadband to get around this. There are a few mobile phone companies here (UK and Ireland) which offer flat rate mobile broadband packages. You just use a small USB modem. I can use it abroad for a set rate, and it still works out cheaper than paying seperately each time I’m in an airport.

  3. #3 Pieter Kok
    January 15, 2008

    I voluntarily dehydrate myself, rather than buying half a litre of water for 1.50 ($3.00). Once you’re on the plane drinking water is free.

    Apparently my BT broadband comes with 200 minutes of free wireless broadband. However, I have no idea how o access it…

  4. #4 Jesse
    January 15, 2008

    $10 is a whole lot of money to spend for using a little bit of bandwidth, isn’t it? It probably would be beneficial to local companies to subsidize wifi to some extent (it wouldn’t have to be free, just a whole lot cheaper!)
    I don’t know much about how airports are run and such. Are most airports owned by the county or city or state? Or are they owned by companies? And is the wifi airports offer actually offered by the airport, or by businesses in the airport like restaurants and coffee shops? I mean, who sets the price for wifi and who makes the money? Because it seems to me that a lot of people who have only a short layover might not want to spend a whole lot of money on using wifi, and making the price for wifi reasonable might actually increase the number of people who are willing to pay for it, and they might make more profit.

  5. #5 Carl Brannen
    January 16, 2008

    The Albuquerque airport also has a large collection of model airplanes that are fun to examine, an early aircraft hanging from the ceiling, and a statue of a Native American with an eagle.

    I’d describe the statue less generically but I’m never sure if his intention is to (a) launch the eagle into the air, (b) hang onto the eagle while it flies, thereby dooming both to an early demise, or (c) tried to catch an eagle and lost his footing at the edge of a cliff.

    Each time I go through the airport and state at the statue but I am still undecided.

  6. #6 JohnQPublic
    January 16, 2008

    “I mean I think it would certainly increase the productivity of their employees.”

    They’re probably already getting that productivity and not paying for it, except for the ones who expense it. But I know a lot of business travlers who will not expense small items like that and I don’t know of any business travlers who do not use airport wifi (you can tell by the email received.) So, I my guess is MS, Amazon, et al are probably already making out, so why should they pay for it?

  7. #7 Dave Bacon
    January 16, 2008

    Jesse: I think what your leading to is that it should be paid for by tax dollars :) Seems more reasonable than the attempts to make an entire city wifi too. ;)

  8. #8 Mark P
    January 16, 2008

    ABQ is a fairly small airport, with some high-tech organizations located there, like Sandia National Lab. And, of course, Los Alamos not too far away. It’s probably easier to do this at a smaller airport than a larger one, and there are a lot of technically-oriented people flying in and out. It does seem like Seattle would qualify in that respect, but I would bet a larger percentage of Seattle travelers are not in high-tech organizations than in ABQ.

  9. #9 Dave Briggs
    January 16, 2008

    I would expect that a large number of employees from these software companies and their customers pass through the Seattle airport. And yet, when I go to the airport, there is no free wireless connection. :( You would think that it would be to these companies benefit to pay for a wireless connection at the airport. I mean I think it would certainly increase the productivity of their employees. Why don’t local companies subsidize free wireless at their local airport?

    Maybe there is someone you could mention this to? A local Chamber of Commerce might be happy to do it, just to be able to advertise they are the ones providing it?
    Dave Briggs :~)