Google gifts US airports with free Wi-Fi

Google is giving the gift of free wireless Internet to travelers at a host of US airports this holiday season.

The California-based Internet powerhouse said Tuesday that it is working with Boingo Wireless, Advanced Wireless Group, and Airport Marketing Income to turn airports into free Internet hot spots through January 15 of next year.

"We're very happy to extend our Holiday Wi-Fi gift to the millions of people who will spend time in airports over the next few months," said Google vice president of search products Marissa Mayer.

"We know that this is a very hectic travel season for people, and we hope that free Wi-Fi will make both traveling and connecting with friends and family a little bit easier."

As of Tuesday, the 47 cities with airports on Google's Wi-Fi gift list included Las Vegas, San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley, and Seattle near the headquarters of Microsoft.

"Google gets this year's Wi-Fi Santa award," said Boingo chief executive Dave Hagan.

Travelers who log into free wireless networks will be invited to reciprocate by making donations to one of three charities, with Google promising to match contributions to a maximum of 250,000 dollars.

Seattle and Burbank, California, airports will offer airport-wide free Wi-Fi indefinitely as a result of the holiday project, according to Google.

While access to wireless Internet is free at some airports, travelers can face charges ranging from a few dollars to tens of dollars to spend time online while waiting for flights at other locations.

The US Federal Aviation Administration predicts that more than 100 million people will pass through the country's airports between now and January 15, 2010.

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