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Continental Air Asks FCC to Protect Wi-Fi Hotspot Antenna

The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) wants Continental Airlines to remove the Wi-Fi hotspot antenna it uses for providing Internet access to its "President's Club" frequency flyer lounge at Boston-Logan International Airport. In an effort to protect the antenna, Continental filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling asking the FCC to determine whether certain lease restrictions and recent demands by Massport for removal of the antenna are permissible or prohibited under Section 1.4000 of the FCC's Over-the-Air Reception Devices (OTARD) rules. These rules prohibit certain restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used for receiving video programming (mostly over-the-air TV antennas and satellite dishes) and customer-end antennas that receive and transmit wireless signals (primarily Wi-Fi and wireless ISP antennas).

Massport's authority to regulate the antenna is exempt from OTARD rules because it falls within the central antenna and safety exceptions to the rules, according to the port authority. Continental argues that the President's Club lounge is located within an area of exclusive use and control under its lease at Logan and that air passengers and Continental employees use the hotspot equally.

One reason why Massport may be concerned over Continental's free wireless Internet service is that the airport's existing Wi-Fi backbone also offers Internet access, for a fee. Continental contended the fees required to use that system would exceed the cost of using its own antenna.

For more details on this interesting case and information on how to file comments, see the FCC Public Notice OET Seeks Comment on Petition from Continental Airlines For Declaratory Ruling Regarding Whether Certain Restrictions on Antenna Installation are Permissible Under the Commission's Over-The-Air Reception Devices (OTARD) Rules (DA 05-2213).