Who owns the air?

Who owns the air?

Summary: I can easily imagine private apartment complexes and commercial structures using such language to keep WiFi out, then selling the "right" to "sell" such service to someone else.

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TOPICS: Legal
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Massport LogoUnlicensed frequencies are supposed to be open to anyone who puts in a device that conforms to regulations.

But what if your landlord says you can't, because they want to sell access to the unlicensed frequency?

A court may have to decide this one. As Declan McCullagh reports, Logan Airport is trying to protect a paid WiFi monopoly contract it signed with a start-up called Advanced Wireless Group against the encroachment of a free WiFi hotspot installed at the Continental Air lounge.

Massport, which owns the real estate, sent Continental a letter claiming its radio threatened to jam frequencies used by police and security officials. That's bogus, since its own paid service uses the same bands.

What's really at stake here is whether real estate owners also control radio signals coming through their property. Continental has complained to the FCC, which opened a file on it, while Massport says the FCC has no jurisdiction, pointing to a lease agreement that prohibits changes to the space's communication system without prior written approval.

This case extends far beyond Logan Airport, because Massport didn't just "sell" the right to use unlicensed frequencies at Logan Airport. According to AWG, a joint-venture between a unit of sports agents IMG and a group called Electronic Media Systems, Inc. whose ownership I can't immediately identify:

Going forward, Massport may extend the Wi-Fi service to encompass all of the Massport property, including, the USS Constitution Marina, the East Boston Waterfront, and the South Boston Complex that includes the Boston World Trade Center.

Is that legal? I can easily imagine private apartment complexes and commercial structures using such language to keep WiFi out, then selling the "right" to "sell" such service to someone else. In fact this is precisely what Massport has done.

Thus do the vagaries of real estate and communications law collide. This won't be the last such case. I hope one makes it to court soon, so we know whether open source communication is a right of the people, controlled by the federal government, or a property right real estate owners can transfer, based on local contract law.

Topic: Legal

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7 comments
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  • What has open source to do with it?

    Or is that just a silly attempt to get the words "open source" into every blog/article?
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Weeellllll

      I gotta admit - I read the article, then your post. Then it got me to thinking, and re-read the article.

      In a way, the article has a lot to do with open source - in that what fundementally is being discussed is a property right. And that one goes right to the core of the Open Source vs. Proprietary Software debate.

      Frankly my view is that Massport owns the property, and has the rights to do what they want to - sell them, assign them whatever. Continental is a leaseholder - and it sounds as if the contract does specify communications to the extent that it now has to go to the courts.

      I also see this as a lesson to those that want free WiFi courtesy of local government - this is a parable of what happens when you let the camel push his nose into the tent.....
      quietLee
    • Not a thing

      It's just the title of his blog. It appears that the author can write about whatever he wants.
      John L. Ries
    • mis-reading the title

      the title does not say open source software.
      I guess you guys are misunderstanding the title as open source software.
      zzz1234567890
    • From the body of the article...

      ---"so we know whether open source communication is a right of the people,"---

      What he hell is "open source cummunication"? As I said, plainly an effort to use the words "open source" as many times as possible regardless of it having even a hint of anything to do with the subject.
      No_Ax_to_Grind
    • RE: Who owns the air?

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      foter
  • We the People

    By virtue of the Interstate Commerce Clause and the Federal Communication Act 0f 1934 et Al.
    A) Unlicensed is wrong since all of the devices are 'device licensed' as required by the applicable Federal Law.
    B) By pre-emptive right the Federal government trumps state/local government when it comes to the airwaves. (This one has many precedents and already been reviewed by the Supreme Court.)
    C) To claim geographic control of 'public airwaves' by state or local government is in direct conflict with the ICC. Being a 'southerner' I know what happens if 'states' claim rights over the Feds. {Send this to GWB, at least we know the Masschsetts crowd actually have WMDs)
    plumley@...