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FCC proposal would make in-flight Wi-Fi faster and cheaper


Thanks FCC! Surfing the Web from the seat of an airplane may get a whole lot easier, due to a proposal from the Federal Communications Commission. According to a report from the New York Times, the U.S. government bureau is looking to host an auction of a handful of newly acquired airwaves. If done, this could not only provide better, faster connections – likely even 30 times speedier than the connection you have in your home – from 30,000 feet, but also could add some competition and help lower prices.

This decision shows that the FCC has its proverbial finger on the pulse, and knows that there is both the need and desire to be connected, even when flying between two destinations, whether it’s for business or pleasure. “The reality is that we expect and often need to be able to get online 24/7, at home, in an office, or on a plane,” said Julius Genachowki, chairman of the FCC. And his colleagues agreed with him; they voted unanimously to move forward with this plan.

Essentially, what will happen is this: the agency will sell several licenses – the number of which they need to determine next, so they don’t over-flood the airwaves – for Internet providers to share select airwaves with satellite communications companies.

Right now, flyers can only connect online on about a quarter of the daily flights, and even on those, the connection speed is about half the average speed of the high-speed Internet people can get in their homes. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not efficient … and not always guaranteed.

While many frequent travelers may be beyond elated at this prospect, it’s not all smiles across the board. The Satellite Industry Association filed a complaint with the FCC, claiming that its proposal could actually cause satellite interference, so that is something that will have to be looked into.

Though the FCC hopes to get the ball rolling on this, don’t expect to see any changes for another few years. It will take a while to work out all the details and get everything up and running. But the wait will likely be worthwhile in the end.

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