FCC Moves to Expand In-flight Wi-Fi
Last month, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that urged the agency “to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable electronic devices during flight.” The Chairman voiced his support for the FAA’s "initiative to review the policies, guidance, and procedures regarding the use of such devices."
"This review comes at a time of tremendous innovation, as mobile devices are increasingly interwoven in our daily lives," Genachowski wrote. "They empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive, helping drive economic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness."
In a bid to keep these devices connected while in-the-air, the FCC approved a new set of rules aimed at making it easier for airlines to offer in-flight Internet service.
Mobile devices have made in-flight Internet access increasingly important to consumers, and many airlines have plans to roll out Wi-Fi-in-the-sky across their entire fleets. PCMag reports that the agency said it hopes the new rules will cut in half the time it takes to get aircraft Internet services approved. Since 2001, the FCC has approved satellite-based Internet systems for airplanes on an ad-hoc basis. The new rules formalize the application process, which should reduce administrative burdens that have stalled on-board Wi-Fi rollouts in the past.
"Whether traveling for work or leisure, Americans increasingly expect broadband access everywhere they go," Genachowski said in a statement. "These new rules will help airlines and broadband providers offer high-speed Internet to passengers, including by accelerating by up to 50 percent the processing of applications to provide broadband on planes. This will enable providers to bring broadband to planes more efficiently, helping passengers connect with friends, family, or the office."
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