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Blog Posts by Roger Sherman

The FCC and Inflight Mobile Wireless Services

by Roger Sherman, Acting Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
November 22, 2013 - 04:13 PM

There has been great deal of public discussion since the Commission announced yesterday that it would consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would seek comment on revisions to the Commission’s rules on mobile wireless services onboard aircraft. I want to clarify what adoption of the draft notice will really mean for consumers.

Without question, much of the response to the announcement was focused on the possibility that the draft proposal would open the door to allowing passengers to make voice calls in-flight. Many are concerned that consideration of this proposal will lead to unbearable situations for airline passengers stuck next to loud, one-sided phone conversations. I empathize with that sentiment completely.   

Under the FCC’s proposal, however, it is the airlines that have the ultimate say as to whether and how to provide additional wireless services – supplementing the Wi-Fi services they may already offer – onboard their aircraft while flying above 10,000 feet. If an airline chooses to provide this service, it could improve access to wireless data services while flying, facilitate the use of in-flight texting, or even bring competition – and potentially lower prices – to a new market for in-flight broadband. 

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