BWI Airport Quietly Unveils Fee-Based Wireless Internet

When BAA Maryland, flipped the switch in the Southwest Airlines concourse last month it became the first regional airport to offer the service.

After a month of delays, wireless Internet service has finally arrived at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport - but with a deliberate lack of fanfare.

When BAA Maryland, which handles airport concessions under a contract with the state, flipped the switch in the Southwest Airlines concourse last month it became the first regional airport to offer the service. More than 700 people have signed on to use it.

"We wanted to get all the concourses up and running ... before the big marketing rollout," said Patrick Walsh, vice president of BAA Maryland. "It's also a chance to make sure the bugs are ironed out."

There are now some signs advertising the pay-as-you-go service, currently accessible only for people on the A/B concourses. The service costs $7.95 for one day of unlimited access and $21.95 for one month.

"BWI has quite a few road warriors so these are great values for unlimited access," Mr. Walsh said. "I think the general feedback is that travelers are very excited to finally get this service."

The service is being provided by Concourse Communications, which has numerous agreements with other wireless Internet providers.

That could mean discounted prices for laptop-toting travelers who are already subscribers through other providers like AT&T, Mr. Walsh said.

The payment system is designed to be fairly painless. A laptop user only needs to turn on their computer and open their Web browser, which can be used to access a payment page. After the user selects a payment method and enters their credit card information, they gain instant connectivity.

There are no plans at the moment to add some sort of minute-by-minute payment method for those who just need to check their e-mail, Mr. Walsh said.

Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport are in the process of installing wireless infrastructure, said Tara Hamilton, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. She said both airports will begin offering fee-based wireless Internet sometime this year.

Meanwhile, BWI will expand its service to Concourse D within two weeks while concourses C and E should be online within two months, Mr. Walsh said.

The wireless signals are only be accessible to travelers who have passed through security, but eventually BAA Maryland plans to have enough wireless transmitters installed to serve the entire airport.

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