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Airport wants to block airline's free wireless

Logan International Airport is trying to block Continental Airlines from providing free wireless Internet access to its frequent fliers.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Logan International Airport is trying to block Continental Airlines from providing free wireless Internet access to its frequent fliers — a service for which the airport charges $7.95 — calling it a threat to security.

The Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan, claims Continental's Wireless Fidelity, or "Wi-Fi," service has interfered with other wireless devices, but did not give specifics.

Continental rejects the claim and argues Massport cannot legally restrict its use of the technology. The Houston-based airline filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

"We believe that offering the free Wi-Fi service at Logan is consistent with FCC regulations and its prior rulings, and is permitted by the terms of our lease with Massport," Continental spokeswoman Julie King said Thursday.

A Massport spokesman declined comment on Continental's complaint, which an FCC spokesman said is the first of its kind involving Wi-Fi access at airports.

The FCC isn't expected to rule on the dispute before Aug. 29.

All 27 of Continental's frequent-flier lounges have offered free Wi-Fi service since last December. But last month, a Massport attorney warned the airline that its antenna "presents an unacceptable potential risk" to Logan's safety and security systems, including its key-card access system and State Police communications.

Massport told the airline it could route its wireless signals over Logan's Wi-Fi signal at a "very reasonable rate."

Craig Mathias _ founder of the Farpoint Group, an Ashland-based wireless consulting firm — said Wi-Fi signals can interfere with each other, but not with other wireless devices.

"It's hard to imagine how this is a security threat," he said. "They clearly don't want the competition."