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9/26/2006
05:45 PM
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The Struggle to Collaborate (on the road)

For road warriors, collaboration frequently means finding a comfy chair (or sometimes floor) with wireless Internet access.  Where would we be without our collaborative tools when we are on the road? Most modern airports do a great job of providing easy access to the Net for their premier customers, the business traveler.   Not so at Boston-Logan International Airport.In 2005, the Massachusetts Port Authority, or Massport, told airlines that they must disconnect their wireless and wireline high-speed Internet access in frequent flier lounges at Logan.  Massport told the airlines to instead use the fee-based system the airport was launching.  As a result of the Massport demand, for example, T-Mobile withdrew its service from the American Airlines lounge.  Continental Airlines petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to allow its own free service to continue; this move was later supported by Internet service providers and United Parcel Service.  

Massport contends that the rival services interfere with its network at Logan, raise safety concerns, and violate lease agreements.  But it looks like the FCC will side with Continental.  FCC Chairman Kevin Martin reportedly backs Continental's petition and the FCC is voting on a proposed ruling favoring Continental.  The ruling requires the votes of at least two commissioners, in addition to Martin's, to pass.

In petitioning the FCC, the airlines cited the FCC's Over-the-Air Reception Devices regulations.  Massport contends that those regulations do not apply to Continental's service and it has told the FCC that the airline's system has caused unnecessary interference with other users at the airport.

A favorable ruling for Continental will serve as a precedent for other airports and airlines.  For the sake of road warriors who are plugged in everywhere, let's hope so.

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