The Los Angeles City Council today voted 11-1 to uphold a two-year, $633,333 contract awarded to Miami-based Advanced Wireless Group to provide free wireless Internet access to travelers passing through LAX.
Councilman Joe Buscaino cast the lone dissenting vote against the deal because he believes airport officials circumvented a competitive bidding process that shut out local businesses, including Los Angeles-based Boingo Wireless, which had offered about 30 percent more revenue to LAX if it was offered the contract.
"I too want free Wi-Fi at LAX as much as anyone," Buscaino said. "But there's at least one other company out there willing to give us a better deal."
If the contract was not approved, LAX could have completely gone without Wi-Fi service by July 16, when T-Mobile's paid Internet access is scheduled to go dark, said Steve Martin, LAX's chief operating officer.
Martin told the City Council that airport officials had to scramble to find a temporary replacement after T-Mobile said it would no longer provide Internet access at LAX.
As a result, LAX "piggybacked" on a similar deal struck up between Advanced Wireless Group and San Francisco International Airport, Martin said.
"This process stinks, folks," Councilman Richard Alarcon said before he ultimately voted in favor of the contract with Advanced Wireless Group.
"You should not let the airport negotiate like this," Alarcon said. "This is a horrible situation."
In the meantime, airport officials said they will spend the next two years finding a permanent Internet provider willing to spend $20 million on a distributed antenna system, or DAS, to provide Wi-Fi service at LAX.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl asked for regular updates on the airport's search for a permanent provider.
"At this point in the process, hopefully lessons have been learned," said Rosendahl, whose district includes LAX.
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