plane.jpgWe’ve been expecting free access to Wi-Fi at SFO for some time now, and finally a date has been set for what we’re told will be no-hassle, gratis online access at one of north America’s busiest – and sometimes very well-regarded – airports.

The SJ Merc reports that as of September 1st of this year, SFO will join the airports of Oakland and San Jose in the Bay Area club of the free Wi-Fi endowed. SFO’s partner in this, T-Mobile, say that they will replace its individually commuter-paid hourly service with the model familiar to frequenters of many a San Francisco coffee shop.

According to SFO spokesperson Mike McCarron, the issue of Wi-Fi availability, shorn of the burden of purchasing temporary access, was of paramount importance to flyers in multiple satisfaction surveys.

Of course nothing is truly without cost, as Appeal contrib Michael Hession has previously detailed, and what may appear to the individual traveler to be an obvious benefit with no downsides (apart from, say, making it harder to wrest someone away from their computer screen for some good old fashioned face-to-face chat) could in fact be an unwelcome change.

The cost borne by the airport in provisioning the “free” service might be passed on to fliers anyway through various charges seemingly unrelated, such as parking (though in theory can be compensated for through advertising revenue). In addition, as Hession points out, the threat of litigation could be a novel risk given the airport’s new role as an internet service provider, with all of the legal ramifications this entails vis–vis viruses and other abuses of the system. The latter is rather speculative, of course, but it’s something to ponder. Guess we’ll have to wait until September 1 to see.

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