Cloud Computing: In-Flight Mobile Use

When Alec Baldwin flipped out on a flight attendant who insisted he end his Words With Friends game before takeoff, most of us had a giggle about entitled celebrity behavior… and then wondered, probably not for the first time, Why do I have to shut down my cellphone for the entire flight? The Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission and certain pioneering airlines seem to have differing takes on the matter. A synopsis:

Some international carriers, such as Virgin Atlantic and Emirates, began allowing in-flight cellphone use in 2012. Customers can text, email and talk on mobile devices throughout the flight—unless, of course, they’re headed to or coming from the United States, because…

The FAA doesn’t allow cellphone use of any kind during flights. This applies to any planes within 250 nautical miles of the States. But…

The FCC thinks the FAA’s rules are behind the times, and is pushing for an overhaul to allow mobile device usage. We also hear that many charter flights largely ignore the current regulations. Alas…

This overhaul would likely mean only web access and texting, but no phone calls. The FAA is hesitant to allow phone calls due to possible interference between the cockpit and communications. Besides…

You can’t just turn on your phone and make a call at 35,000 feet—or rather, the whole cabin can’t try this and expect decent service. The carriers that allow phone calls have optimized their cabins to act as mini-towers and eliminate interference issues with the cockpit. If full-scale cellphone use is allowed, there’s no reason a carrier couldn’t charge for such access.

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