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December 31, 2012

FCC to Relax Restrictions Against In-Flight Internet Access for Airlines

By Frank Griffin, TMCnet Contributing Writer

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) is in charge of regulating communications in the U.S., and that includes airlines. Although many other countries have been allowing mobile communications on their airlines for some time now, the U.S. has been extremely cautious in easing its restrictions for any type of airline communications use while in flight.

The agency seems to have enough data to vouch for the safety of allowing electronic devices, and the chairman, Julius Genachowski, is now pushing for more access during flights.

Since 2001, the FCC has been allowing companies to provide Internet services on airlines on a case-by-case basis. This was in part because at the time, it was not clear how much interference wireless communications could cause to the avionics instrumentation. New technology and better control measures have made it possible to provide the service without any damage to the aircraft.

The old system of approving companies to provide in-flight communications services was time consuming. This new framework will be much easier, allowing airlines to test systems that meet the FCC’s approval so they can install Internet services quicker.

The chairman said the goal was to increase the speed of the process by up to 50 percent.

In-flight broadband uses what is known as Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (ESAA) technology to provide the service. The transmission is made by a two-way broadband signal between geo-stationary satellites and a reception antenna on the airplane. This greatly limited the number of companies able to provide the service.

Under the new rule, any company can use ESAA as long as their system doesn’t interfere with avionics or communications.

"This will enable providers to bring broadband to planes more efficiently, helping passengers connect with friends, family, or the office," said Genachowski.

Although the regulation has been softened, the FCC still doesn’t allow cell phones in-flight. The chairman is asking the agency to look in to relaxing this policy as well, so communication can be available between take offs and landings.

This means the only sanctuary you had from your cell phone might soon be eliminated.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Braden Becker
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