FCC chief urges FAA to allow more in-flight use of devices

In calling for greater use of portable electronic devices on airplanes during flights, Julius Genachowski notes that mobile devices have become "increasingly interwoven" in people's lives.

tyPad on a plane
The tyPad being used on an airplane seat-back tray. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has thrown his agency's support behind the greater use of portable electronic devices on airplanes during flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration should "enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices," the FCC's Julius Genachowski said in a letter today to FAA acting chief Michael Huerta.

The FAA currently prohibits airline passengers from using devices during takeoff and landing for fear that transmissions will interfere with the airplane's equipment, but the FAA recently formed a committee to reconsider its policy on when electronic devices can be turned on during a flight.

The formation of an industry group to take on the issue of consumer desire versus safety comes after the FAA said earlier this year that it was going to research the issue. However, the FAA said the policy review would not include allowing calls from cell phones during flights.

"This review comes at a time of tremendous innovation, as mobile devices are increasingly interwoven in our daily lives," Genachowski wrote in the letter, seen by The Hill. "They empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive and efficient, helping drive economic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness."

The FCC says on its Web site that it considered lifting its ban on in-flight cell phone use but abandoned the idea in 2007 because available technical information was "insufficient to determine whether in-flight use of wireless devices on aircraft could cause harmful interference to wireless networks on the ground," the commission said.

 

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