WASHINGTON May 9 U.S. federal
telecommunications regulators are pushing ahead with efforts to
bring faster Internet service to commercial and private airline
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday started
deliberations on a proposal that would offer a new type of
in-flight broadband service promising U.S. fliers higher Wi-Fi
speeds and better connections.
The proposal, which has been pushed for years by wireless
equipment maker Qualcomm Inc, seeks to open up more
radio airwaves for airborne Internet access.
Some satellite companies have opposed Qualcomm's plan as
they worry that new broadband services would interfere with
At Thursday's open commission meeting, the last for outgoing
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the four remaining
commissioners voted to begin gathering public comment on how the
airwaves should be licensed and shared with incumbent users.
"The world simply does not wait for us to get off the plane.
We expect information at our fingertips at all times," said
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat. "Air travel stands
out as one of the few places where we can't always rely on a
U.S. air travelers can already access the Internet on some
flights but the speed of such service, which either relies on
connections with antennas on the ground or satellites, is
Qualcomm, whose proposal has received backing from U.S.
airlines, welcomed the vote.
"This proposal takes the technology to the next level,
allowing passengers to use their smartphones, tablets and other
mobile broadband devices in the air with very high speed, high
capacity mobile broadband connectivity, just as they do on the
ground," Qualcomm's Senior Vice President for Government Affairs
Dean Brenner said in a statement after the vote.
Internet access for now would exclude takeoff and landing,
when U.S. passengers are required to shut down their electronic
devices. The FCC is working with the Federal Aviation
Administration to study the impact of possibly relaxing that
Genachowski said at the meeting that his last day at the FCC
will be May 17. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the senior Democrat
will take over as interim chair while the Senate considers the
nomination of telecommunications veteran Tom Wheeler, President
Barack Obama's pick to replace Genachowski.