FCC Makes Changes To Improve Availability Of In-Flight Internet Access

For more than a decade, the FCC has been approving individual applications from companies to provide in-flight Internet access. But this burdensome process will soon be cut in half thanks to new rules issued by the Commission.

Until now, each company that wished to supply ESAA (Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft) devices, which allow planes to provide a data connection to passengers, had to seek licensing approval from the Commission on an ad hoc basis.

The new rules establish a standard regulatory framework intended to speed up the approval process by 50% by allowing airlines to test systems that meet FCC standards, establish they do not interfere with aircraft systems, and get FAA approval.

“Whether traveling for work or leisure, Americans increasingly expect broadband access everywhere they go,” explains FCC Chair Julius Genachowski in a statement. “These new rules will help airlines and broadband providers offer high-speed Internet to passengers… [and] will enable providers to bring broadband to planes more efficiently, helping passengers connect with friends, family, or the office.”

This announcement comes only weeks after Genachowski urged the Federal Aviation Administration “to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices during flight, consistent with public safety.”