The Los Angeles City Council's Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee today voted 2-1 to stick with a two-year, $633,333 contract awarded to Miami-based Advanced Wireless Group to provide free wireless Internet service to travelers passing through LAX.
The full City Council is expected to consider the deal Wednesday.
If the deal is not ultimately approved, LAX may go without Wi-Fi service by July 19 when T-Mobile's paid Internet access will go dark, airport officials said.
"No matter what happens, we better have Wi-Fi at LAX," said City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes the airport.
"I don't care if it's free or not, we need to do this," Rosendahl said. "I'm not going to wait another day."
Councilman Joe Buscaino cast the lone dissenting vote because he believes airport officials circumvented a competitive bidding process that shut out local businesses, including Los Angeles-based Boingo Wireless.
Buscaino said he still plans to ask his council colleagues to issue a competitive bid and urge airport officials to find a company that will generate more revenue.
"It's our duty as elected officials to find the best deal and make sure it is lucrative for the city," Buscaino said.
When airport officials were notified by T-Mobile that the company would not longer provide Internet service at LAX, they warned committee members that a replacement would be needed quickly.
As a result, they "piggybacked" on a similar deal struck up between Advanced Wireless Group and San Francisco International Airport, city lawyers said.
In the meantime, airport officials said they will spend the next two year finding a permanent Internet provider willing to spend $20 million on a distributed antenna system, or DAS.
Executives with Boingo Wireless told the council committee that they were never approached by LAX officials and only learned about the Wi-Fi deal after reading about it in media reports.
Preliminary negotiations that would have allowed Boingo to provide Wi-Fi at LAX through another airport contractor, JC Decaux, fell apart earlier this year, airport officials said.
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