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FCC adopts new licensing rules for in-flight Internet service

The new rules are designed to speed deployment of Internet services on aircraft.

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

The Federal Communications Commission announced new rules today designed to speed deployment of Internet services on aircraft.

Since 2001, the FCC has authorized a number of companies on a case-by-case basis to offer in-flight Internet service via Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft, which carry two-way signals from an aircraft-mounted antenna to geostationary satellites. The FCC said the new rules define ESAA as a licensed application and sets a framework for processing applications, allowing airlines to test and win approval for systems that meet FCC requirements for not interfering with aircraft systems.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the new rules will help meet the demands of American travelers, who increasingly expect near ubiquitous broadband access.

"These new rules will help airlines and broadband providers offer high-speed Internet to passengers, including by accelerating by up to 50 percent the processing of applications to provide broadband on planes," Genachowski said in a statement. "This will enable providers to bring broadband to planes more efficiently, helping passengers connect with friends, family, or the office."

The new rules were announced less than a month after Genachowski threw his agency's support behind allowing greater use of portable electronic devices on airplanes during flights. In a December 6 letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, Genachowski said the FAA should "enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices."