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LAX wireless service contract halted by City Council

June 13, 2012 |  7:46 am

LAX crowds

An expedited contract to provide free wireless Internet access at Los Angeles International Airport was halted Tuesday by the City Council, which questioned whether LAX officials should have used a competitive bid process.

The council voted 13-0 to stop the Board of Airport Commissioners from awarding a contract to Florida-based Advanced Wireless Group without letting other wireless providers vie for the business.

Commissioners awarded the two-year contract June 4. The deal would have provided LAX with $663,333 in revenue for the contract period, plus an additional $420,000 if an option for a third year was approved.

Airport officials said they needed to quickly select a new company because T-Mobile is eliminating its Wi-Fi service at LAX, which costs travelers $9.99 per session.

A competitive bid process, officials said, could take up to two years, too long to prevent an interruption of wireless access once T-Mobile pulled out. They added that the city attorney advised the commission that the sole-source contract was legal.

Advance Wireless stated that it could provide free Wi-Fi at the airport within 60 days. The service would show users a 15- to 30-second advertisement before they gained access to 45 minutes of Internet access.

Before the vote, Councilman Joe Buscaino questioned the deal, saying that the award of a sole-source contract cut out local companies, such as Boingo Wireless, the largest provider of wireless Internet access in the world.

Disagreeing with the city attorney's advice, Councilman Richard Alarcon said he did not believe that Advanced Wireless was the only company that could provide Wi-Fi services.

"You are walking down a precarious, precedent-setting path here," he added.

The council now has 21 days to review the matter and decide whether to accept or reject the contract. A two-thirds majority vote is required. The council’s Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee is scheduled to discuss the matter next week.

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Photo: Crowds in December at an LAX terminal. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times.