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Friday, January 4, 2013

FCC Eases Licensing Requirements for In-Flight Wi-Fi

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in a Report and Order released last week, approved new rules to accelerate the deployment of in-flight Wi-Fi on more commercial flights in the United States.

The FCC shares regulation of in-flight connectivity with FAA, and has allowed companies to offer the services on an ad hoc basis since 2001.

The newly formed rules will allow airlines to obtain broadband Internet licenses for their planes by getting FAA approval as long as they prove that the on-board systems do not interfere with aircraft systems. FCC defines in-flight connectivity systems as Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (ESAA) communicating with Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) geostationary-orbit (GSO) space stations.

“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,” FCC said in a statement.

The decision comes following increasing pressure on FAA to expand the use of portable electronic devices (PED) on commercial flights. In December, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta saying she is “prepared to pursue legislative actions” if FAA moves too slowly in updating its policies regulating PEDs.”

In-flight service providers such as Gogo currently offer Internet service on limited routes for United, American and Delta airlines. More

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