ATLANTA -- It's the number one complaint of passengers coming through the world's busiest airport: no free Wi-Fi. Airport spokesman Reese McCranie it makes up for 25 percent of complaints. If the Atlanta City Council gives the go-ahead, it's a complaint that could disappear.
Of the ten busiest airports in the United States, only New York's JFK and Hartsfield-Jackson don't provide at least limited access to free Wi-Fi. McCranie said the money hasn't been the main obstacle. It's the size of the project. The current infrastructure is out of date and would max out at 2,000 users. An average of 150,000 passengers come through the airport every day. Under the new system, 15,000 users can be on Wi-Fi at the same time.
He calls outfitting all concourses with the internet upgrade a "massive undertaking". The airport chose Johnson Controls Inc. for the project. They're under a tiered agreement. The faster the project is finished, the more expensive it will be. If they finish in 30 days (McCranie said that would take a "herculean effort"), it will cost $5.5 million. After 30 days, the price starts to decrease. At 120 days, the project cost is $3.6 million. Six million dollars has been ear-marked for the project.
The funds would come out of Department of Aviation Funds, not the city general fund. Since the airport would no longer be charging for Wi-Fi, there would be a drop in revenue, but McCranie calls it "nominal".
As people became more accustomed to getting free Wi-Fi, they were less and less willing to pay for it. "It's worth the added expense," McCranie said. "People expect to have free Wi-Fi and it's keeping with best practices." The Atlanta City Council vote is scheduled for next week.