Following up on a recommendation to loosen mobile device restrictions, an FAA committee has ruled Wi-Fi is safe during all phases of flight. That means you can immediately connect to onboard Wi-Fi, no matter the altitude, and start browsing your favorite website. The FAA report allegedly has over two dozen new recommendations, though lifting current rules are obviously the most pertinent. A full report is expected to be released soon.
According to one of the group’s technical advisors, who also happens to be a senior Amazon official, “the vast majority” of aircraft should be just fine, no matter what application a device is running or “what wireless-transmission mode they are in.” Planes today are considered so resilient to electronic interference that a little Angry Birds below 10,000 feet is no problem. Unfortunately, the FCC still prohibits airborne cellular service, so passengers still aren’t allowed to use their data connections.
With gadget restrictions being lifted, the next goal is to combat rules against ground-based cellular connections; the committee has allegedly urged the FAA to work with the FCC in the hopes of loosening such restrictions. Right now, the FCC is claiming airborne data usage interferes with ground communication systems, though many believe those claims to be unfounded.
Since data usage is still restricted, passengers will be encouraged to switch their devices to Airplane Mode. If passengers don’t comply? According to Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, “it wouldn’t present a significant safety hazard.” Having moved so swiftly through loosening other restrictions, it’s likely only a matter of time before the FAA and FCC work toward changing rules around in-flight data usage.
The FAA will still have final say over what is and isn’t acceptable regarding gadget use, but the consensus seems to be that mobile devices during all phases of flight pose no imminent threat. If everything goes through, the rules could change as early as next year.