Expanding Access to Mobile Wireless Services Onboard Aircraft
Current FCC rules, which were designed to prevent harmful interference to wireless networks on the ground, restrict the in-flight use of mobile devices operating over certain wireless frequencies. Special equipment (called an “airborne access system”) that can be installed directly on an airplane is now available to prevent such interference, and has already been deployed successfully in many other countries around the world without incident.
Based on these advances in technology, the FCC has adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would give airline carriers the ability to allow passengers to use their mobile wireless devices, such as cellphones, to access data, texting, and/or voice services while flying above 10,000 feet. The FCC is considering whether these advances in technology no longer warrant – solely on a technological basis – the prohibition of in-flight mobile phone use.
The FCC will collect and carefully review consumer and technical input before taking any final action to potentially change the existing ban on using cellphones in-flight.
The proposed rules would make clear that, as a default, the ban on operating cellphones on planes would remain in place. Ultimately, if the FCC adopts new rules, it would be the airlines’ decision, in consultation with their customers, and consistent with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (USDOT) rules, whether to permit Internet access, texting and/or voice services on mobile wireless devices while airborne.