U.S. FCC Loosens In-Flight Wi-Fi Regulations, Clears Way for Wider Adoption

by Brandon Russell | December 28, 2012

The FCC is pushing for airlines in the U.S. to adopt better in-flight Wi-Fi technology, with the stipulation that regulatory approval time will be cut down by as much as 50 percent. Under the new framework, the commission wants terms to be simpler, which it hopes will boost the widespread adoption of Internet access for cross-country travelers. That, in turn, should boost competition for better speeds as well.

Previous commission terms merely cleared companies on an ad hoc basis—a model that has remained since 2001. Current systems use satellites affixed to airplanes, but the new terms will allow airlines the freedom to test better Wi-Fi solutions, barring that they don’t interfere with aircraft systems. The Federal Aviation Administration would also have to give approval.

The upshot is to speed up the process, offer better in-flight Wi-fi, and make traveling less painful, particularly for those longer flights. However, the FCC’s insistence on spreading out wider in-flight Wi-Fi doesn’t affect the use of smartphones on airplanes, which could potentially interfere with ground stations. Plus, nobody wants the person they’re sitting next to to talk their head off on a six hour flight.



Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...