FAA Inches Closer to Wi-Fi Freedom

We are so close to being able to use electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

How close are we? We are taxiing towards the gate and can’t wait to stretch our legs and use the restroom.

But there’s a chance that the gate isn’t ready yet. There’s another plane there that’s delayed. Maybe we’ll be stuck on the tarmac reading SkyMall for another hour. Our legs are itching to stand up!

How close are we? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advisory committee has given its recommendations for in-flight Wi-Fi and the use of devices during take-off and landing – and it looks good. They suggest lifting the ban on using electronic devices below 10,000 feet.

shutterstock_50139025Let’s get to the nitty-gritty

The New York Times explained exactly what these new regulations would look like. Passengers would access any digital media – e-books, movies, music – as long as it was downloaded before boarding the plane. Any content that can be accessed while the device is in airplane mode would be free game throughout the flight.

Passengers still couldn’t send emails until the plane reached 10,000 feet, but once they reached passed that limit passengers could access the airline’s Wi-Fi system – for a fee of course.

Basically, Wi-Fi could be the new headphones. You might not want to have to pay for it, but you’re not about to embark on a four hour flight without it.

Other factors to consider

Currently the burden of proof falls on the airlines. They must each prove to the FAA that their planes are capable of flying without experiencing any interference. Many already have, the Wall Street Journal said 60% of commercial aircraft can already connect to Wi-Fi.

It’s easy to see how smartphones advance their technology over the years, but planes are doing the same. Their instruments have become more modern and durable, which has made them less sensitive to interface from e-readers and laptops.

Plus, tech developers are also working to make the skies more Internet-friendly. Amazon has been running tests on its e-readers to see if they would interfere with the systems and computers found in the cockpit. So far their devices haven’t caused any problems and Amazon has used that information to lead the charge of private companies advocating a lift on the ban.

shutterstock_89158855Both airlines and tech creators have been working to make their products safer so we can lift the ban and make the skies more comfortable. If these recommendations pass and passengers are able to start using their devices a little more, it could pave the way to a complete ban removal in the future. It’s all a matter or development and regulations.

Oh but wait, it’s the government

As much as we want to celebrate this small victory in a land of body scanners and endless lines, there are still hoops to jump through. Now that the committee has made their recommendations, they need to be reviewed by the rest of the FAA, which could take another few months.

Grin and bear it, weary travelers, maybe Wi-Fi will come in the New Year.

About the author

Amanda Dodge