Google puts free Wi-Fi in 47 airports for the holidays (plus they're matching charitable donations)

Well, the spirit of giving arrived a little early this year! For my birthday last month, Google announced it was partnering to offer free Wi-Fi on all Virgin America flights until January 15th. Great, thanks Google, now I have to check the feeds even while flying at 500MPH. But I guess that wasn’t enough kindness to satisfy the Goog.

They’ve just announced that they’re going to be extending the free Wi-Fi to 47 entire airports. And not only that, but there’s a raft of giveaways, charity matching, and other nonsense in the bargain as well. I’m starting to think that it’s not “Don’t be evil” so much as “Give away enough stuff that people forget about the evil.” Maybe that’s disingenuous. In fact, I’m sure it is. Oh well, ’tis the season for moral ambiguity.

Here are the details, as briefly as I can state them.

  • All airports on this list have Wi-Fi right now. Except Sea-Tac, which is getting it later (just my luck).
  • Google will match any donation (up to $250K) made via the Wi-Fi in one of the airports. The airport that has the most donations on January 15 will get a $15,000 credit to donate to a local charity of their choice.
  • The service is provided by “Boingo, Advanced Wireless Group, Time Warner Cable, Electronic Media Systems, Lilypad as well as numerous airports that provide wireless services themselves.” i.e. Google is just paying the bill, everything else is the same.
  • No data is being collected besides the donation data (you’re not a guinea pig).
  • At some point you’ll be able to submit a photo of yourself via the Wi-Fi in order to enter for a prize drawing. Okay…? That’s kind of weird. I guess “Don’t be creepy” isn’t in the Google charter.

Sounds good to me. If anyone finds a catch, let us know, but I think it’s pretty straightforward. More info at the Free Holiday WiFi page, if you’re interested or feeling FAQ-y.

Also, as commenter Harold points out, Yahoo! will be providing Times Square with Wi-Fi for a whole damn year, and Microsoft is partnering with JiWire to put Bing-sponsored free Wi-Fi in “hotels and airports.”

[via LA Times and Black Book, and The P-I for that last bit]