Even the most frugal of Harvard students can read e-mail and check Facebook while waiting to depart from Boston Logan Airport this holiday season, thanks to Google’s free WiFi at 47 airports across the nation and on all Virgin America flights from now until Jan. 15.
The marketing campaign comes with no strings attached, said the head of the Google project, Jeffrey Aguero ’06. He said Google initiated the project in collaboration with airports and Internet providers. “It’s been a tough economic year and we wanted to show a token of appreciation to our users,” he said.
Ankur Agrawal ’11 happily took advantage of the free WiFi this past weekend. He said it was easy to connect but he was not impressed by the speed.
“It wasn’t fast, but it was fast enough to be able to check my e-mail without too much trouble,” he said.
Like Agrawal, Nora Ali ’11 admitted that she only uses WiFi at the airport when it is free.
“It makes sense to [offer free WiFi] over the holidays because that’s when most people travel,” said Ali, a frequent traveler. However, she said she “would prefer it all year long”.
Google has no plan to extend free WiFi throughout the year, Aguero said.
Though Vivek R. Sant ’10 is appreciative of free wireless at airports, he said he is slightly suspicious of Google’s motives. “It is hard to believe that they are doing this just because they have these high principles of giving free WiFi to everyone,” said Sant, the business manager of the Harvard Computer Society.
At sign-in, users of the free wireless are invited to download various Google products such as Google Chrome or Google Toolbar. Furthermore, users are encouraged to give to Google-supported charities including Engineers Without Borders and Climate Savers Computing Initiative.
Users won’t be bombarded with external advertisements to pay for the project, Aguero said. He declined to disclose the program’s cost.
But Sant believes the free WiFi will benefit Google because it will increase use of popular Google applications. “Google is branching out into every Internet application,” Sant said. “More people who have access to the Internet are inherently going to use Google more.”
The extent of Google’s influence on everyday Harvard college life does not surprise some students.
“Google is known for being an innovative company,” Ali said. “It would only make sense that Google will be providing free Internet at airports.”