Happy Holidays: Google Offers Free WiFi At 47 Airports

Google WiFi

Calling it a "holiday gift," Google is hoping to raise money through voluntary donations to Engineers Without Borders, the One Economy Corporation or the Climate Savers Computing Initiative in exchange for the free WiFi.

Google will match donations made up to $250,000 and the airport network that generates the most donations per passenger by the end of the year will receive $15,000 for the charity of their choice, according to Google.

"We're very happy to extend our holiday WiFi gift to the millions of people who will spend time in airports over the next few months," said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google, in a statement. "We know that this is a very hectic travel season for people, and we hope that free WiFi will make both traveling and connecting with friends and family a little bit easier."

The participating airports include Austin, Baltimore, Billings, Boston, Bozeman, Buffalo, Burbank (Calif.), Central Wisconsin, Charlotte, Des Moines, El Paso, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Greensboro, Houston (HOU), Houston Bush (IAH), Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kalamazoo, Louisville, Madison, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Monterey, Nashville, Newport News, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Orlando, Panama City, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, South Bend, Spokane, St. Louis, State College, Toledo, Traverse City and West Palm Beach.

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"Indianapolis International Airport is thrilled to be a part of the Google Holiday WiFi campaign," said Jeremiah Wise, treasurer of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, in a statement. "Free and open access to the Internet has been a key passenger service initiative since the opening of our new airport. The involvement of sponsors such as Google helps to ensure we can continue to keep WiFi free."

Free WiFi in airports is becoming a more regular benefit for air travelers. According to WiFifreespot.com, more than 100 airports in the United States offer free Internet in at least some areas. For example, at JFK Airport in New York, free WiFi is only available in the JetBlue terminal.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that more than 100 million people will pass through airports between now and January 15, 2010, and travelers have up to 70 minutes extra time after they pass through security due to bad weather and other reasons, according to Google.

A WiFi Alliance study reported that 50 percent of business travelers take red-eye flights in order to be "reachable" during business hours, and 82 percent said that being connected through WiFi would help solve that problem, according to Google.

"Google gets this year's WiFi Santa award for sponsoring complimentary access in dozens of airports, both to the traveler's and airport's benefit," said Dave Hagan, president and CEO of Boingo Wireless, in a statement. "In addition to the obvious bonus holiday travelers will enjoy, sponsored access will increase overall WiFi usage in the participating airports and help supplement the airport's increasingly important non-airline incremental revenue."