LAX: Free Wi-Fi contract to return to L.A. City Council for vote

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

The saga of free wireless Internet access at Los Angeles International Airport drags on.

The contract for free Wi-Fi that had been submitted by airport commissioners won approval by an L.A. City Council committee on Monday, which means the item again will return to the full council on Wednesday. It requires a two-thirds majority vote of the council to approve or overrule the contract.

The $663,333 expedited contract with Advanced Wireless Group hit a bump in the road last Tuesday when the City Council voted 13-0 to stop the contract after some members questioned why other wireless providers weren’t allowed to bid. The airport said it had no time for a bidding process, which could take up to two years, because current provider, T-Mobile, which charged $9.99 per session, was pulling out.

“The service LAX passengers request most is free Wi-Fi,” L.A. World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey said in a statement before Monday’s vote. “With our current provider scheduled to end its service soon, we didn’t want passengers left with no service at all.” She said she hopes the council approves this short-term solution until the airport can complete a bidding process for a long-term contract that’s expected to take 18 months to two years.

The Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee voted 2-1 on Monday to affirm the airport commissioners’ action to award the contract, according to the office of Councilman Tom LaBonge, who heads the committee. “We can’t wait until over a year,” LaBonge said last week in a phone interview. “It’s poor leadership on the part of the council to not get this done.”

Council members Joe Buscaino and Richard Alarcon questioned the bidding process in last Tuesday’s meeting. Buscaino, who sits on the Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee, plans to submit a minority report in opposition to the committee’s decision to approve the contract.

Under the contract, travelers would get 45 minutes of free Wi-Fi after watching brief advertisements. John Wayne, Bob Hope and Long Beach airports all provide free wireless service.