Flies on a Plane?

An article in today’s NY Times mentioned that using cell phones on airplanes is safe “now that flight safety issues like the potential for interference with avionics communications at cruising altitude are resolved” (I have to ask… did they ever interfere… really?) but that airlines continue to ban them for social reasons. At least one airlines (American) has started offering broadband internet connections (for a fee) but are disallowing VoIP.

From other web sources, I’ve gleaned that the EU recently voted to allow personal cell phone use on flights within Europe and that is putting pressure on US airlines to do the same.

However, according to the FCC website:

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prohibit the use of cellular phones using the 800 MHz frequency and other wireless devices on airborne aircraft. This ban was put in place because of potential interference to wireless networks on the ground.

The FCC has approved rules that allow in-flight voice and data services, including broadband services using dedicated air-to-ground frequencies that were previously used for seat-back telephone service.

So are we banning them for social reasons? Or for potential interference to wireless networks on the ground?

If for social reasons… since I’m not talking on my Flybook, is it now ok to connect up for a datalink? And for the geek in me, just how does the signal reach an airplane? It’s not like there are a lot of cell towers at 30,000 feet…


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