I had the pleasure of a brief layover in the Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) on my way home from Seattle / Redmond (more on that trip soon) yesterday. While I was standing in the SouthWest airlines cattle callboarding line, I brought my X41 Tablet PC out of hibernate mode and started fumbling around for my EVDO card. While I was doing this XP found some local access points, and I decided to take a look.
I fully expected to see the normal airport fare – a paid access point from TMobile, AT&T or Boingo, a few locked networks for who knows what, some security enabled airline clubs, and of course several honeypots claiming free access – what they will really do is sniff your traffic, and steal your identity. (NOTE: NEVER connect to a peer to peer network if you are not 100% sure what it is. I constantly see these now in airports, hotels, and other public places – very dangerous).
I was surprised to see an open network named Sky-Harbor (the name of the airport), so I decided to connect. Instead of being brought to a “Please enter Credit Card’ page, I was brought straight to my home page! Perfect! I was able to sync with Exchange, grab my RSS feeds, and be on my way before the boarding line even moved. I travel A LOT, and this was only the second time I’ve bumped into a free WiFi point sponsored by the airport itself. All other things being equal, I will now make sure to fly through Phoenix when I have the opportunity instead of another connection airport with $12.95 WiFi.
I did a quick search this morning, and found a great list on TravelPost.com that covers 164 US airports and their WiFi availability. This page is a must bookmark for all Tablet (and I guess laptop too 🙂 ) travelers who like staying connected.
Of the top 20 US airports, only 5 have free access (Las Vegas, Phoenix, Orlando,Philadelphia, JFK – Jet Blue Terminal). But quite a few of the smaller airports do have free access. Way to go small airports, maybe the larger ones will get a clue soon!