FCC Eases Rules for Airline Internet

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has eased licensing for in-flight Internet services on airlines flying in the U.S.  Further, the agency has asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to relax restrictions on in-flight use of electronics such as Internet-ready smart phones and tablets.

Since 2001, the FCC has authorized companies to offer Internet access on a case-by-case basis.  The new rules will establish standards for not interfering with aircraft controls and open up the market to any provider who can meet those standards.  If the FAA cooperates, then this would also create a list of safe devices that can be used to access the Internet from the plane.

The new FCC rules also set up protocols for satellites to communicate with mobile devices and airliners to provide access.  In these systems, an antenna on the aircraft communicates with satellites, gaining access to the Net.  The plane can then offer WiFi or similar connectivity for passengers in the cabin.

The new rules will give faster and more efficient licensing and will open them up to more providers, giving airlines and passengers more options for connectivity.

This is great news for travelers who may be tired of the general Internet blackout that seems to be common on aircraft.  If the plane does have Internet access, your device may not be kosher in-flight or your device may be OK, but the plane doesn’t offer access.

With these changes, we could soon see Internet as a common option as part of the ticket price on a flight.  Few things could be a more mobile hotspot than an airliner.

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