Wi-Fi in public places can feel more like a Soviet-style ration scheme rather than a basic service like lights or water. Airports are among the worst offenders — high prices for little gasps of internet — but recent shifts in policy and the Wi-Fi business mean change is coming.

Beginning last week, ad tech firm MediaShift unrolled a premium Wi-Fi service to 20 airports, including 4 of the 10 biggest, around the country. The Wi-Fi is free but requires those with laptops to watch a video to access the service; airport users on mobile devices — who make up 47 percent — have to download an app to get the WiFi. Here’s how it might look:

Screen shot of Hotel Tonight airport Wifi

No one will be surprised to learn that ad dollars are behind the effort, but the ad business and what it means for airports is still intriguing. My colleague, Kevin Fitchard, explained to me that the…

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