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Fly the Wi-Fi-friendly skies

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Hustling to distinguish itself from the competition and find new revenue streams, Delta Air Lines plans to roll out Wi-Fi connections on all of its domestic flights by next summer.

Delta is not the first airline to introduce web-ready planes. JetBlue offers simple e-mail and Amazon.com shopping. American, Continental, Virgin America, and several others are fiddling with the technology. But Delta is the first to commit to the lofty goal of outfitting all 330 US flights with Internet connections.

The program relies on special antennas that beam up information from cellphone towers down below. Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and cellphones will work, but federal law bars passengers from using the connection to make normal phone calls, according to The Washington Post.

The Federal Aviation Administration fears those wireless signals could interfere with an airplane's avionics and communications equipment. The FCC bans cellphone use on airplanes because it can disrupt mobile service on the ground. Additionally, Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) is pushing a bill in Congress to explicitly ban voice calls on flights.

Alaska Airlines and Southwest intend to launch their own Wi-Fi programs that pull data from satellites instead of cell towers.

Delta’s Wi-Fi service will cost $9.95 for three-hour flights, $12.95 for longer trips.

Considering the price of flights, an extra $10 isn’t too bad. It’s a nickel-and-dime scheme that actually makes sense – add new features rather than suddenly charging for existing ones.

[Via The Washington Post]

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