Google becomes Santa- offers free airport Wi-fi for the holidays (until January 15th, 2010)

GOOGLE BECOMES SANTA

Google has announced that it will be offering free Wi-Fi at selected US airports and on all Virgin Atlantic America flights within the continental United State this holiday season. Google says the Wi-Fi will be available until January 15, 2010.

For a complete list of participating airports visit Google’s dedicated Free Wi-Fi for the Holidays Website. Google also has a list of FAQs for the eager public interested to learn more about this generous offer.

When you are stuck in the airport terminals due to weather delays with only your laptop for company, you will definitely appreciate the value of free Wi-Fi.

Google has partnered with airports across the country, as well as Time Warner Cable, Boingo Wireless, Advanced Wireless Group and many others to offer Wi-Fi. Because Google’s partners don’t have a presence in all U.S. airports Google’s free Wi-Fi won’t cover everybody traveling this season.

Here is breakdown of how this free Wi-Fi offer works:

Get Online For Free

Airports across the country offering Google’s free Wi-Fi include Boston’s Logan Airport, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Las Vegas’ McCarran International, Seattle’s SeaTac and many others. But a number of important hubs like Chicago O’Hare, LAX in Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St.Paul, Dallas-Fort Worth and all three New York-area airports are missing from this list. On the other hand, Google says that Seattle and Burbank airports intend to offer free Wi-Fi for an indefinite period as a result of this free Wi-Fi program.

Prizes and giveaways!

Starting next Monday, you will be able to win prizes by submitting photos of yourself using free in-flight or airport Wi-Fi during the holidays. Google doesn’t specify what the prizes are or what constitutes a winning photo, but it looks like you’ll be submitting photos to Picasa, Google’s online photo storage and sharing service. To get more details about the photo contest, you have to enter your e-mail on Google’s Holiday Wi-Fi Photo Contest page.

Google is also encouraging free Wi-Fi users to open their hearts and their wallets this year. When you log on to free Wi-Fi from any of the participating hotspots this season, you will be given the option of donating to your choice of charities including Climate Savers Computing, One Economy Corporation and Engineers Without Borders USA via Google Checkout .

Google says it will match donations across all the free Wi-Fi hotspots up to $250,000, and the airport that generates the most donations by January 1, 2010 will receive $15,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. Check out Google’s charity page for more information.
What is the catch?

No catch is evident from a careful reading of this offer.  You will not need to enter any credit card or other payment information to get the free Wi-Fi. Ensure that you choose the free complimentary Google hotspot among the available wireless networks. There will be scattered ads as expected with any Google free product, but I expect this to be unobtrusive.

You should also know that Google says it “will have access to some aggregate, non-personally identifiable information.” This should not come as a surprise to regular Google users, but if you’re squeamish about Google and its data practices then free Wi-Fi may not be the gift for you this year.

Simple security while using free Wi-Fi

Sure sounds like a great way to save money, but it is worthwhile to remember to employ adequate security measures to thieves and nefarious hackers who will no doubt, throng airports to prey on clueless travelers.

Public hotspots, are open and unencrypted, and therefore notoriously insecure. There are ways to stay safe, however and here are the top 5 hotspot safety tips:

1) Configure your Wi-Fi device so that it does not automatically connect to an open network without your approval.
2) If there’s a storage device or another PC on your home network, you may have sharing enabled on the laptop you’ve brought to the airport. Before connecting to a public hotspot, make sure that you disable sharing.
3) Use a virtual private network (VPN), to access secure and sensitive information like hospital data.
4) Switch on your personal firewall, (Mac or Windows PC), or a from a third party vendor like Symantec.
5) Avoid paying bills and shopping online at a hotspot? If you do have to, use a hotspot that has WPA2 security.

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About Sanjay Prabhu

Pediatric radiologist working at one of the world's largest children's hospitals. I love gadgets, technology and anything with a chip in it!

Posted on November 11, 2009, in Product reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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