Sunlit Water

April 5, 2009

The Benefits Of Being Late To The Bandwagon

Filed under: Culture,Transportation — by teofilo @ 4:08 pm

Yglesias notes that small airports like Jacksonville and Albuquerque are more likely than airports in large cities to have free wireless. This is something I’ve noticed as well. The wireless at the Albuquerque airport is very nice and easy to use, while at airports like O’Hare it’s all for a fee. It seems to be airports in large cities rather than large airports, too: on my way from Albuquerque to Philadelphia a few days ago my layover was at Love Field in Dallas, which is a very small airport in a rather large metropolitan area, and sure enough, when I opened up my browser there it prompted me to buy access.

Yglesias seems genuinely puzzled by this, but I think the reason is pretty straightforward.  I haven’t checked this out, so it may not turn out to be true, but anecdotally it seems to me that the airports in big cities were the earliest to install any sort of wireless service, and they did so at a time when free wireless was not yet a very widespread phenomenon.  This gave certain wireless providers an opportunity to grab a very profitable opportunity to serve a huge captive audience, and they went ahead and did so as soon as they could.

Small-city airports, being less attractive to the major providers and generally less on-the-ball about implementing the latest services, were generally passed over in this first round of wireless.  When they finally did get around to deciding to put in wireless, things had changed and free wireless was common, so they went ahead and installed their own free systems, without involving the major providers, and marketed them as complimentary amenities for travelers.  Thus, the pattern we see today.

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