The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has eased restrictions on in-flight Internet services so airlines can obtain broadband Internet licenses for their planes.
The FCC on Dec. 28 approved an application process airlines can use in a bid to enable Internet providers “to meet increasing consumer demands” and promote the “economic growth and job-creating impacts of ubiquitous broadband,” the FCC said in a press release.
For the past 12 years, the FCC has allowed certain companies to offer Internet service in the air on a case-by-case basis by means of Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (ESAA). The ESAA carries two-way signals from an aircraft-mounted antenna to geostationary satellites.
The rules issued last week classify the ESAA as a licensed application and puts in place a structure for processing applications, allowing airlines to test and be sanctioned for systems that meet FCC requirements for not interfering with aircraft systems.
“By reducing administrative burdens on both applicants and the Commission, the new rules should allow the Commission to process ESAA applications up to 50 percent faster, enhancing competition in an important sector of the mobile telecommunications market in the United States and promoting the widespread availability of Internet access to aircraft passengers,” the statement said.
The new rules come less than a month after the FCC began pushing for greater use of Smartphones and tablets during airplane flights.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to “enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices” during flights in a letter sent Dec. 6 to Michael Huerta, the acting administrator of the FAA.
“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 and efficient, helping drive economic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness.”
Currently, passengers are frequently prohibited from using tablets and other such devices during takeoff and landing due to fears of aircraft interference.