Internet service at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport may not be as fast as passengers would like, and the airport is hoping to fix that sooner than later.
“We’re maxed out with the capability that’s out there,” said Tony Bean, airport executive director.
By “there,” he means the corridor along Airport Road which lacks infrastructure to provide high-speed internet to many people, including airport patrons.
Pullman City Councilor Al Sorensen brought up the internet issues during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Sorensen said he has heard complaints from the public about the airport’s poor internet service.
Currently, the airport relies on internet provided by First Step through a microwave antenna located on Moscow Mountain. While the antenna provides public Wi-Fi and it is sufficient enough for the airport staff to conduct their daily business, it is less than ideal when the terminal is filled with waiting passengers taking up the airport’s bandwidth, Bean said. He said the internet is less reliable for streaming videos or other entertainment options people like to use when waiting for their flight.
“When we have 76 people on it, on the public part of it, that doesn’t work as well,” Bean said.
Frontier is installing a fiber-optic line under Airport Road, and Bean said the airport is talking to Frontier about future capabilities. He said Frontier relocated their line from under the runway after Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport began its runway realignment project.
The airport is also communicating with First Step about options for improving the bandwidth. Kevin Owen, owner of First Step, said the company has been providing free internet access to the airport for more than a decade. He said the two main issues are getting bandwidth to the airport and distributing it effectively inside the terminal.
He said Thursday there were 45 devices connected at once, and sometimes there can be upward of 70.
He said First Step changed the access point in the building to help support newer devices, which has improved things. In the future, he said the company could use a different microwave antenna or fiber along the road. The Port of Whitman is working on building a fiber-optic line along Airport Road and First Step is waiting to find out when it will be available and how much it will cost, Owen said.
Bean said the airport administration will continue to talk to Frontier, First Step and Spectrum about solutions and will try to negotiate the best deal. Bean is also in contact with Avista about installing charging stations for cellphones.
“We’re doing the best we can with the technology that’s available,” Bean said.