Free WiFi from Google; No Sniffing

I got a chance to use Google's free airport WiFi for the holidays while on a stopover in Phoenix. It worked quite well, but I didn't have time to boot up the sniffer between flights.


O.K., I'll admit that "didn't have time" is carny for "was too lazy", as it is in almost all cases. If I were being a good sniffer I would've used my fifteen free minutes to boot into Windows, start up OmniPeek and get a little bit of useful information.

The WiFi network at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) seemed pretty ordinary so I doubt that there was anything very interesting going on. You associate, you bring up your web browser, you accept Google's terms of service and you're on. Pretty simple. Speeds on the PHX network were good and nothing seemed to be restricted. I was able to send a quick email, download a podcast and browse to my typical stuff (WiFi news, sports and pro wrestling).

One twist on Google's free holiday WiFi at airports is that they try to get you to be a little bit altruistic (a word I hate, but I'll save that speech for another day) after you connect. Instead of giving you the standard, "Welcome to PHX airport," type of page you get Google's give back page instead. It seems like a nice idea and the fact that Google matches all donations is kind of cool. I'm guessing that this will end up helping the three charities Google supports as well as other organizations, as it definitely reminded me that I've neglected a few of the usual organizations I give to lately.

In hindsight I do wish that I would've taken the time to do a quick sniff to see how many people were taking advantage of the service. I suspect that many travelers have become so jaded by fee-based airport WiFi that they'll pass on the service without even connecting and checking the web authentication screen to see if it's free. Such are the dangers when you make it practice to charge for something that most people only like as a free service.

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