If you’re even a semi-frequent flier, those moments between takeoff and 10,000 feet can be annoying if all you really want to do is finish a time-sensitive email right away.
Now, there’s hope.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a panel has recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration relax regulations restricting use of Wi-Fi below 10,000 feet. The panel’s technical committee, headed by Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, determined that Wi-Fi signals don’t pose a risk to “the vast majority” of aircraft currently flying. Amazon, which makes the Kindle line of tablet computers and e-readers, has been pressing to relax the rules around using electronic devices on aircraft.
“Our customers have been telling us they don’t understand” the reasons behind the ban on using devices during takeoffs and landings, Misener told the WSJ, adding that gate-to-gate usage does not pose a threat.
Moreover, for the planes that already have in-flight Wi-Fi capabilities (about 60 percent of those currently flying in the U.S.) testing could be minimal or nonexistent, which could speed adoption.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to keep working on your TPS report when you fly tomorrow. The FAA still has to consider the committee’s recommendations and determine how (if at all) it would go about implementing them. After that, the agency would probably conduct more safety testing, and only then would they implement any policies.
Still, the FAA is under pressure from industry groups and lawmakers to get the ball rolling, so there’s a chance we could see substantive change on these policies sooner rather than later.
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.