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FCC paves the way for better in-flight broadband

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The FCC has already authorized a number of companies to provide in-flight Internet service, but the process has been "ad hoc" up until now. In-flight broadband relies on a technology called Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (ESAA), which carries two-way broadband signals between geo-stationary satellites and an antenna mounted on the aircraft. The new rules establish a framework for any company to use ESAA, provided that their systems don't interfere with aircraft communications and that they meet with approval from the FCC and the Federal Aviation Administration, which operates the country's air traffic control system.

Interestingly, the FCC's new rules don't mean that passengers will be able to use electronics throughout flights. The longstanding ban on using cell phones in-flight still stands, as does a ban on using laptops and other electronics during takeoff and landing. The government says those rules are in place because of concerns about interference with ground communications. But Genachowski also asked the FAA earlier this month to relax the rules on aircraft -- so perhaps you'll soon be able to stay connected from takeoff 'til landing.

The FCC notes that the new rules are being put in place with an eye toward "enhancing competition in an important sector of the mobile telecommunications market", as well as "promoting the widespread availability of Internet access to aircraft passengers." That means you'll likely have to rely on willpower soon, if you're interested in maintaining your flights as an oasis of "unplugged" time.

Are you excited about the idea of more connected flights? Or are you happy to pass the time in the air with a book? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more tech news, follow Jeff on Twitter@jeffwardbailey.

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