One Airport deserves another

That’s what the folks over in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport seem to be thinking: they’ve taken to installing 802.11b wireless internet connectivity, a mouthful better known as Airport (or Wi-Fi), and come March 1st, it’ll be accessible to all travelers passing through their concourse.

The best part? It’s free if you have a laptop that’s Airport-enabled (all Apple iBooks and PowerBooks, and many other laptops are Airport/Wi-Fi-capable). Now business travelers will have an easy and fast way to get online while on waiting out the inevitable plane delays (and harried moms can keep Junior occupied).

It’s great to see the airport honchos in Minneapolis-St. Paul take the lead on something I believe will prove revolutionary, although I’m surprised that it wasn’t done first in, say, New York’s JFK or LaGuardia, or perhaps in Los Angeles’ LAX, all of which are much busier than Minneapolis-St. Paul. But the Twin Cities airport is ranked at the 13th busiest according to an organization that has too much time on its hands; there are plans to roll this program out to JFK, LaGuardia, Newark and Detroit Metro airports in the future however.

I’ve believed for a long time that wireless internet connectivity is going to become ubiquitous, simply because the Internet has taken on such a central part of many people’s lives. We’re demanding the ability to find a decent Thai restaurant in a strange city, with ratings, prices and turn-by-turn directions at our carpal-tunnelled fingertips, and we don’t want to stroll through the yellow pages (or the wrong part of town) to do it.

People want to go online anywhere and everywhere, and wireless connectivity makes that possible. More and more “FreeNets” (802.11 networks made available to anyone within range) are popping up in the three-Starbucks-to-a-block neighborhoods, and that (unlike the Starbucks issue) is A Good Thing.

After Macworld San Francisco this year, with a couple of hours to kill, I kicked back at the Sony Metreon with my iBook and was pleasantly surprised to find an Airport connection. It made my downtime pass significantly faster, and made it more likely I’d return to the Metreon when I need to get out the house. And since the Metreon has a food court (and, yes, a Starbucks), I’ll probably end up spending money there.

Everybody surfs, everybody wins.