RDU Airport is the nation's best airport for wireless Internet service -- even if travelers have to pay for the privilege -- PCWorld magazine reported today.
In a larger article rating airports for qualities prized by tech-savvy travelers, the magazine complained that WiFi download speeds at most U.S. airports are painfully slow, less than 2 megabits per second. RDU topped the magazine's Top 10 list with a respectable average speed of 13.62 mbps.
Some travelers have lobbied RDU to join other U.S. airports that provide free WiFi service for passengers waiting to board their flights. RDU charges $7.49 per 24 hours for its service, provided through AT&T. (The magazine's main article incorrectly said RDU service is free.)
RDU raked in $240,000 in WiFi fees in 2010. Last year RDU officials defended their policy, saying that travelers would rather pay for good service than get bogged down in the heavier Internet traffic that would be attracted if the service was free. But the new magazine ratings do not show a clear correlation between cost and quality.
Five other airports on PCWorld's Top 10 WiFi list charge about the same daily fee for their slower service: Baltimore-Washington (6.47 mbps), Dallas-Fort Worth (3.73 mbps), JFK (3.21 mbps), Nashiville (2.79 mbps) and LaGuardia (2.78 mbps).
Ranking close behind RDU with the nation's second-fastest airport WiFi is the Charlotte Douglas Airport, with 11.62 mbps. (When upload speeds were compared, however, Charlotte beat RDU).
The price for WiFi at Charlotte's airport? Free.
Overall the magazine rated RDU 12th best out of the top 20 airports for tech appeal. The airport also got points for the power outlets and USB ports available in seating areas in RDU's Terminal 2.