San Jose International Airport’s Wi-Fi Investment Defended

Published October 10, 2008

The August issue of InfoTech & Telecom News quoted tax and technology experts questioning the wisdom of implementing a free wi-fi service at the taxpayer-supported Mineta San Jose International Airport. Officials at the airport maintain it receives no taxpayer funds and that the free wi-fi service is a smart business decision that will generate revenue for the airport. The following article is a response by the airport’s communications director, who was quoted in the original August story.

A story in the August edition of InfoTech & Telecom News quotes two analysts who appear to misunderstand the financial structure of the Mineta San Jose International Airport.

Like most major U.S. airports, Mineta San Jose International is an entirely self-supporting enterprise that does not get tax dollars from our residents and businesses—a point that Timothy B. Lee of the Cato Institute and Samuel Bostaph of the economics department at the University of Dallas don’t seem to recognize.

No Taxpayer Burden

It is true that the airport is publicly owned by the city of San Jose. But the airport depends on its own aviation operations, like any other private business, to generate revenue from its users through sales, rents, and fees to run the airport and invest in the future. The Mineta San Jose International Airport places no burden on city taxpayers.

The airport launched free wi-fi both as a marketing strategy to differentiate our airport from others in the Bay Area and to meet the greater expectations for technology that our savvy Silicon Valley travelers have. This is directly analogous to businesses that provide free “Internet hot spots” to entice their customers to come and stay to spend money.

Popular Decision

The airport’s business decision has not raised questions about the legitimacy of investing in such a service. Airport staff has heard nothing but gratitude from our passengers and our local businesses for providing wi-fi that can make passengers more productive while they wait for their flights.

We’re also very confident that this entrepreneurial investment will more than pay for itself through advertising and sponsorship from our private-sector partners. We have deals in the works now to generate net revenue that will support our ability to build, operate, and maintain a high-quality, competitive airport at a lower cost to our customers in the long run.

David Vossbrink ([email protected]) is communications director for the Mineta San Jose International Airport.