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Summary:

Air-traveling web workers (which, I think, includes most of us) will perhaps recall that about two years ago the Federal Communications Commission announced that they were going to reconsider the rule requiring that cell phones be turned off when an aircraft leaves the runway. At the […]

Air-traveling web workers (which, I think, includes most of us) will perhaps recall that about two years ago the Federal Communications Commission announced that they were going to reconsider the rule requiring that cell phones be turned off when an aircraft leaves the runway. At the time, they invited comments on the technical merits of this proposal, with an emphasis on the effect of cell phones on aircraft navigation and safety.

If you’ve been losing sleep over the prospect of being trapped in a middle seat between two chattering salesman through an entire transcontinental flight, you can rest easy now: yesterday the FCC announced (PDF link) that they were terminating this reconsideration and that the existing rule will remain in place until some unspecified later time. Apparently, they didn’t get enough useful technical data, and the Federal Aviation Administration has their own study of the same problem underway anyhow.

On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that AirCell will be rigging airplanes as in-flight WiFi hotspots within the next 12 months. So even if you can’t call up your co-workers while you’re over Omaha, you should be able to fire up your laptop and catch them via instant messenger. Don’t think you’ll get around the cell phone ban with Skype, though; AirCell says they’ll be blocking VOIP services.

Which of these pieces of news is the win and which is the loss depends on how you feel about having a few peaceful hours out of touch while you’re traveling.

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  1. I’ve always wondered if there was technically a reason to ban cellphone use on flights. As one comic once said, “if a cellphone can screw up the computers on a plane, we have a lot to be afraid of.” Point being: I mean, like, isn’t the tech on a plane solid enough that a cellphone couldn’t ruin it? There’s numerous times that I’ve forgotten to turn my phone off, and I’m sure there’s plenty of people who have done. Same from my wifi card in my laptop.

    Meaning, if planes were going to be falling out of the sky because of cellphones, I suspect we’d already be seeing it.

    It’s interesting that they’ll block VoIP. That makes me wonder if the cellphone/VoIP bane is more a security precaution — so that teams of hijackers can’t coordinate — than anything else.

    Ya’ll know the “real story” on phone ban use? Or is it actually the sensibility of avoiding being that person in the middle with the two chatty salespeople?

  2. A Roadmap for the Mobile Future – PC Blade Daily – Practical News and Views on Centralized Computing Wednesday, April 4, 2007

    [...] play a major part in bringing mobile devices fully under the corporate umbrella. Developments like Wi-Fi hot spots on airplanes will extend the mobile network to (literally) new [...]

  3. And how tempting it would be to elbow the chatty salesperson in the face. Shut-up mate; I am trying to:

    Watch a movie
    Sleep
    Read
    etc…

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