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9/21/2006
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FCC Chairman Martin Favors Dropping Wi-Fi Ban At Boston Airport

Martin reportedly wants to allow Continental Airlines and other Wi-Fi providers--both actual and potential--to use their own Wi-Fi services at Logan.

Addressing a Wi-Fi ban at Boston's Logan Airport that could set a nationwide precedent, FCC chairman Kevin Martin is recommending that the ban be dropped, according to the Reuters news agency.

Specifically, Martin is said to favor allowing Continental Airlines and other Wi-Fi providers -- both actual and potential -- at the airport to use their own Wi-Fi service at Logan. The news comes one week after emotional ceremonies at the airport to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 terror attack. Two planes that crashed into New York's World Trade Towers, Amercan Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 originated at Logan.

The Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan, had raised security and safety questions, claiming that public safety links could be compromised by Wi-Fi hotspots operated by Continental, American Airlines, United Parcel Service and others.

However, Craig Mathias, a principal at wireless mobile consultancy Farpoint Group, Thursday noted that Wi-Fi hotspots can interfere with each other, but represent no known danger to public safety networks.

"(Wi-Fi) is absolutely not a danger," he said. "If there could be a problem it would be on the other end." He explained that other networks could interfere with Wi-Fi networks and he indicated such interference would be rare.

According to the Reuters news agency, which quoted telecommunications lawyers, chairman Martin wants to support Continental in its quest to provide Wi-Fi at its lounge at Logan. He needs the support of at least two FCC commissioners for the proposal to be approved.

Two years ago, the Port Authority ordered Continental to shut down its Wi-Fi hotspot, even after it had been in use for several months. Others, ranging from airlines to hospitals, chimed in warning that the Logan mandate could set a Wi-Fi precedent by permitting landlords and other business authorities to keep tenants from using Wi-Fi.

The Port Authority wanted to exact a fee from Wi-Fi providers at the airport.

Continental led the opposition to the Port authority. "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," the airline's spokesman Dave Messing said, according to Reuters.

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