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Free Wi-Fi Abounds with Holiday Sponsorships

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The twinkle of the holiday season is already upon us as companies are climbing over each other to pick up the tab for Wi-Fi access at hotspots that typically charge a fee, including two of the most expensive venues: on planes and at airports.

In unrelated sponsorship deals, eBay, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are providing free access to various networks and services over the next few weeks and months.

  • Free airport Wi-Fi from Google. Google is sponsoring network access at 47 airports from 10 November 2009 to 15 January 2010, although a few of these airports already provide free service. On top of the sponsorship, Google offers a photo contest and up to $250,000 in matching donations for cash gifts made to selected charities through Google Checkout at the airport.
  • Free Wi-Fi access on all Virgin America flights from Google during the same period.
  • Free Delta in-flight Wi-Fi via eBay. From 24 November 2009 to 30 November 2009, eBay is sponsoring free Wi-Fi on Delta flights; Delta has about 250 Wi-Fi-equipped planes in its fleet.
  • MSNBC recently rounded up a number of other, more limited free or discounted deals, too, including a 2-for-1 deal from AirTran (buy one session, then get the next free).
  • Free airport and hotel access from Microsoft Bing. To promote the Bing search service, Microsoft partnered with JiWire - a firm for which I've worked and consulted - to offer sponsored access to hotel and airport hotspots. A Bing search is required to get the free service. The specific hotspots aren't being disclosed, unfortunately, but you'll know it when you see the promotion.
  • Times Square in New York City from Yahoo. Yahoo is underwriting a year's worth of free outdoor Wi-Fi in Times Square starting 10 November 2009, just in time for holiday shopping and festivities.

Other travelers may already have free access at many for-fee hotspots in the United States, including subscribers to AT&T DSL, fiber (U-Verse), and laptop 3G services; Cablevision (its coverage area only); Qwest (via AT&T's hotspots); and most T-Mobile phone data subscribers. AT&T iPhone subscribers also get free Wi-Fi at AT&T hotspots, but only via the iPhone.

 

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Comments about Free Wi-Fi Abounds with Holiday Sponsorships

David Weintraub  2009-11-11 09:32
I just looked at the list of airports Google has: None of the three NYC airports. Not Philly. Not DFW, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, etc. Boston and Houston are there though.

I know this isn't Google's fault, but I got excited to think I might be able to get free WiFi access while I zip around the country. Next time, I'll ask my company to send me to Traverse City (where ever that is).

Maybe the Microsoft Bing Mystery WiFi access might work.