Airlines need the FCC’s permission to tap into satellite airwaves
while in flight that enable passengers to access the Internet. They
also need permission from the Federal Aviation Administration, which
oversees the safety of inflight Internet systems.
The regulatory hurdles have stalled the implementation of the
Internet in the air, some experts say.
Still, some airlines have been reluctant to join the
broadband bandwagon for a much more mundane reason: peace.
Not all passengers want to be sandwiched between seatmates who are
streaming videos, playing games and, potentially in the future,
talking on their cellphones.
“Whether traveling for work or leisure, Americans increasingly
expect broadband access everywhere they go,” said FCC Chairman
, adding that the rules will speed the aircraft Internet application
process by 50 percent.
The decision comes as consumers and technologists question
restrictions on the use of electronic devices on planes.
An e-reader does not pose the same threat of interference that a
cellphone could for a pilot’s ability to safely operate a plane,
some experts say. But a Kindle is treated the same as other
electronic devices, which must be turned off during takeoffs and
Earlier this month, Genachowski wrote to FAA acting administrator
Michael P. Huerta asking for greater use of devices during flights.
The FAA requires airlines to test Internet systems and devices to
prove they will not interfere with radio communications and
navigation tools. The FAA noted that the FCC’s rules will help
“streamline the process” for airlines to install Internet systems on
aircraft, but did not comment beyond that.
The FAA in August launched a working group to study the use
of new devices such as e-readers, tablets and game consoles on
flights. But the FAA said it would not consider the use of cellphone
connections in its study.
United, American and Delta airlines have been offering
Internet service on limited routes through providers such as Gogo.