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FCC Smooths the Path For Airlines' In-Flight Internet

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the paving-the-path-wouldn't-make-sense dept.

Government 93

The Washington Post reports on a development that may push Internet access on commercial aircraft from a pleasant luxury (but missing on most U.S. domestic flights) to commonplace. Writes the Post: "The Federal Communications Commission on Friday approved an application process for airlines to obtain broadband Internet licenses aboard their planes. Previously, airlines were granted permission on an ad hoc basis. Airlines need the FCC’s permission to tap into satellite airwaves while in flight that enable passengers to access the Internet. They also need permission from the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees the safety of inflight Internet systems." I hope that on-board Internet not only becomes the default, but that free advertising-backed access does, too; especially for short flights, the "24-hour pass" paid access I've seen on United and Delta is tempting, but too pricey.

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Pricing (2)

freefal67 (949117) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417483)

Think it is likely to remain too pricey for now. Too many price-insensitive business travelers willing to pay *any* price with the corporate credit card. Maybe the airlines can make it up on volume at a lower price point or figure out how to tier it properly, but seems like a good deal they have going now.

Re:Pricing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417507)

in-flight porn.

Re:Pricing (4, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419587)

Too many price-insensitive business travelers willing to pay *any* price with the corporate credit card

I'm a business traveller - Flew 65K miles on 66 segments in 2012. When I've been on flights with IF internet I've never bothered with it. I edit presentations, work on spreadsheets, reply to email ("save draft"), or watch a movie. It's my few hours when I'm *not* connected...

Re:Pricing (2)

cthulhu11 (842924) | about a year and a half ago | (#42431337)

You get to fly first class? Lucky you. I've given up trying to use a laptop in coach - no room for a tolerable arm/hand angle for typing or reasonable head angle, and too much risk for the jackass in front of me reclining with no notice and snapping my display.

Re:Pricing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426631)

If it becomes too cheep and/or free it will be unusable. There isn't that much bandwidth on the plane for everyone to use it.

So wireless internet does not crash airlines?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417521)

Would a thunk that consumer wireless devices trying to access the internet were safe. I mean those big fancy planes and their temperamental electronics.

Hopefully homeland security does not weigh in, some terrorist could communicate with onboard agents of nefarious intent.

Re:So wireless internet does not crash airlines?? (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418995)

Hopefully homeland security does not weigh in, some terrorist could communicate with onboard agents of nefarious intent.

Even terrorists need to be entertained, I suppose.

But seriously, though, does it really hurt so much to unplug from the internet for a while (and yes, I am used to long-haul flights, with all-too-common trips between the UK and Australia) and catch up on sleep, listen to music or read a book?

Re:So wireless internet does not crash airlines?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42419137)

On long flights I like to work on personal projects. It would be nice to be able to connect to github and not have to dev directly on my laptop. Virgin Airlines remains my favorite airline of all time. If all airlines were like them I'd say it's almost worth putting up with the TSA.

Re:So wireless internet does not crash airlines?? (3, Insightful)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419157)

It is nice to have the option of checking the results of a hockey game during a long flight, but in general I agree; having to live without an internet connection for several hours is not a hardship. It is not hard to download a movie or two the day before flying, and anyone who is is critical to their company that the company cannot function if they are out of contact for a few hours needs to be replaced. Critical failure points like that are too dangerous to keep around.

Re:So wireless internet does not crash airlines?? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419425)

Obligatory Louis C K: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=aba_1332656862 [liveleak.com]

(skip to 2:00 for the relevant part...)

Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (5, Interesting)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417523)

Please, for the love of God, Xenu, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, no, not in-flight internet that screws with the stream and inserts its own ads into it, or intercepts random http requests and redirects them to interstitial ads. Taco Bell in South Florida tried that a few months ago, and it broke SO FUCKING MANY Android apps it isn't funny (because the access point's stupid software couldn't tell the difference between a http request for a web page, and a http request made to some web service whose client app is just going to crash and burn if it gets a 302 redirect in a context where the real app would never, ever return one).

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (3, Interesting)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417575)

^^^ Oh, I forgot... it also broke non-http-based apps (including ipsec VPNs and SSH), because it would periodically decide to make you watch an ad, and start blocking all traffic from your IP address until you watched one. Except in the meantime, your app is freaking out because it's supposedly connected, but has no apparent connectivity. Oh... and the best part... whatever they were using to serve the ads had a bug that caused the Flash-based ad host to crash when you tried watching ads beyond the first, so once the initial session ran out of time and it decided to make you watch another ad, there was nothing you could do to reconnect and make it work again short of spoofing a different MAC address.

Maybe this is something IETF needs to address, so "free-as-in-no-cash-trading-hands" wifi can at least communicate to OTHER applications that they need to make you watch an ad to avoid having the connection go away. In the meantime, though, I officially regard "free-if-you-watch-the-ads" wifi as a plague that does nothing except cause misery and render the service completely useless.

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (4, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417741)

Some smart person will write a browser extension that says, "Sure, I'll watch your ad. Stream it right here where I'll pipe it to /dev/null".

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (3, Informative)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417915)

The videos had forced interactivity (hence, their dependence upon Flash features that Android didn't support). It would stream, then pause and force you to make a choice, like "Which delicious menu item should our hero Jose order?", then made you watch more, then asked a final question you had to get right to prove you watched the video, or it would make you watch it again. (I heard somebody with a laptop at another table angrily complaining about it)

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417967)

If anything, in-flight internet will enable the dick-kneaders. You know the guys, because you probably are one yourself:

First you look around the cabin to determine whether or not you're in reasonable line-of-sight of any of the other passengers. Being in the line of sight of sleeping passengers is okay, especially on night flights. If you determine all is clear, you ask the attendant for a blanket. If you are a skilled dick-kneader, you will probably already be fluffing yourself through your pantspockets before anticipating the blanket with both arms. Cover yourself with the blanket, recline, and lay sideways wtih your back to as many passengers as possible.

When you have sufficiently pretended to be asleep while fluffing yourself for a minute or two, it is time to finish up. Be careful not to knead yourself with such intensity so as to cause vibrations in the seat next to you, do not gasp like a sexual pervert, and keep the force of your knead perpendicular to the cabin floor and under the blanket tent so that a fist-sized portion of blanket is not oscillating up and down. Keep a portion of the blanket tucked in between yourself and your pants so that they are not wettened. Alternately, do not tuck the blanket but plan your kneading to allow for enough time for your pants to dry before the plane lands.

But I'm sure you knew that already, because you are on Slashdot.

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42420833)

+5 Informative...

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417583)

> Taco Bell in South Florida tried that a few months ago, and it broke SO FUCKING MANY Android apps it isn't funny (because the access point's stupid software couldn't tell the difference between a http request for a web page, and a http request made to some web service whose client app is just going to crash and burn if it gets a 302 redirect in a context where the real app would never, ever return one).

HTTPS for everything. Problem solved.

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (2)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417773)

> HTTPS for everything. Problem solved.

No, that's the point. The way they implemented it caused Android apps to break on multiple levels. If you were tunneled through a PPTP VPN (to encrypt all of your traffic, and prevent a badly-written app that used http from leaking information about you to someone running Wireshark in the vicinity), it broke everything after ~10 minutes when it decided to block you for not watching an ad. Attempting to launch the web browser at that point didn't help, because the web browser's traffic was tunneled through the ipsec VPN too, and never got its request intercepted and redirected to the ad. Even after you killed the VPN, there was ANOTHER bug that prevented that second ad (and beyond) from running properly, even after you closed the VPN session and tried to relaunch the browser. It tried to display an embedded flash video ad, then either crashed the browser trying to display a partial mis-zooned chunk of the video, or it would run to completion, but not credit you for actually watching the ad.

Basically, its developers tested it with desktop browsers running desktop Flash, and failed to realize that IOS devices can't do Flash at all, and Android devices can only handle a subset of Flash. Judging by the artwork style, dysfunctional operation, Flash-focused design, and restaurant chain, I'm guessing it was probably written by the same team who went on to create the steaming mountain of poo known as "Pizza Hut's Android App" (don't get me started... that app was SO BAD, it cost Pizza Hut my business for MONTHS because I literally couldn't complete an order without the app crashing. It's the only one-star rating I've ever given to an Android app.)

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417899)

Stop moaning about something offered for free... Taco Bell FFS - if it's that important to you, bleeding go somewhere else...

and as for the pizza hut app.... have you ever..... like... thought of using the phone to *talk* ??

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418067)

Why shouldn't he moan about it? He's a paying customer of Taco Bell.

If something is so broken as to render it effectively useless then you might as well not offer it to begin with. The way OP describes Taco Bell wifi shows it to be a comedic failure caused by greedy money-grubbing PHBs. That's worth talking about just for the failure of leadership to properly exploit technology if nothing else.

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about a year and a half ago | (#42425869)

I know attention spans are more limited these days, but try to follow the conversation more than one post deep. It began as an example of what could go wrong with ad supported internet on airplanes. It wasn't simply a rant against Taco Bell. He was using that example to make a broader point.

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418191)

How about supporting it with a tiny fraction of the cost of the flight tickets which we already pay for? It's not like they need advertising-supported seat cushions or oxygen.

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418427)

It's not like all passengers need the internet as badly as seat cushions or oxygen. Ask around if everyone on the plane would like to support you being on the internet during that flight?

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419751)

How about supporting it with a tiny fraction of the cost of the flight tickets which we already pay for?

Because many airlines are teetering on the brink of insolvency and that 'tiny fraction' often represents the meager profit margin on a given ticket.

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (1)

adolf (21054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418409)

Dude. It's Taco Bell.

Eat your "food" and get the hell out of there.

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419019)

If wifi internet service is going to cost the airline and/or passengers money, I would much prefer those funds were used to budget for increased legroom in those so-called "seats". I am not tall by current Western standards (5' 7") or even fat, but flying is sufficiently unpleasant for me to avoid it whenever possible.

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418591)

crash and burn

I'm reading this on a plane, you insensitive clod!

Re:Oh ${deity}, please, NOT ad-supported internet! (1)

swillden (191260) | about a year and a half ago | (#42420053)

For that matter, unless they can find ways to dramatically increase the bandwidth, I don't want in-flight Internet to become cheap either. Please keep it expensive enough that most people will choose not to use it, so it'll be fast enough for those of us who are trying to get work done. Or maybe introduce tiered pricing so that those who need the higher speeds can get it.

Not satellite access required. (2)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417601)

GoGo uses cellular service, not sat links. The whole thing about using your cell phone on an aircraft is utter bullshit and has been since day one.

Heres an map old map of some of their towers.

http://www.gadling.com/2009/12/07/aircell-headquarters-chicago-internet/ [gadling.com]

Analog cell phones worked just fine on aircraft. Digital doesn't have the power to do it at 35k feet, of course, you also have a battery that'll last a couple days instead of just one with digital but thats another argument and that problem can be addresses as well.

Re:Not satellite access required. (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417675)

I seem to recall that mobile-phone providers were worried about in-flight use of phones because it could cause a mess with the networks if thousands of customers were hopping cell towers at 500+ mph, instead of at usual walking/subway/biking/driving speeds. One per plane would presumably not cause the same problem.

Re:Not satellite access required. (2)

RDW (41497) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418683)

Maybe it's the airlines who are worried about the potential for violence inherent in being stuck next to someone jabbering away on their phone for an 8 hour flight? I hope they block Skype...

Re:Not satellite access required. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42419189)

and Ventrilo, and Mumble, and Yahoo, and Gtalk?

Re:Not satellite access required. (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42422225)

You can already do that on a lot of flights, you just have to pay a silly amount per second for the call. I'm amazed the airlines haven't seen the obvious money-making opportunity here - allow bidding between passengers to use or prevent the use of the phone.

Re:Not satellite access required. (3, Informative)

shitzu (931108) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418117)

Batteries lasting a couple of days vs one has nothing to do with digital vs analog. I have had a digital (GSM) phone with a battery that lasts for two weeks easily. Batteries these days don't last more than a day because of those gigaherzes of cpu to power, inches of screen to light and constant communications for smartness.
And by the way - GSM goes easily to 35k feet (11km) - if there are no obstrucions - you know - like in the AIR. We use a ferry to travel from Tallinn (Estonia) to Helsinki (Finland) and only right in the middle of this ~80 KM journey is there no cell reception from either shore. I would extrapolate that at least 30 km (3 times the height of commercial air traffic) is easily doable.
Cell phone reception only sucks if you have buildings or plants in the way. Or a mountain.

Re:Not satellite access required. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42419195)

Radiation from radio masts tend to go horizontally, not upwards, so it may not be quite so simple to extrapolate based on your observation.

Re:Not satellite access required. (1)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419633)

Batteries lasting a couple of days vs one has nothing to do with digital vs analog. I have had a digital (GSM) phone with a battery that lasts for two weeks easily. Batteries these days don't last more than a day because of those gigaherzes of cpu to power, inches of screen to light and constant communications for smartness.
And by the way - GSM goes easily to 35k feet (11km) - if there are no obstrucions - you know - like in the AIR. We use a ferry to travel from Tallinn (Estonia) to Helsinki (Finland) and only right in the middle of this ~80 KM journey is there no cell reception from either shore. I would extrapolate that at least 30 km (3 times the height of commercial air traffic) is easily doable.
Cell phone reception only sucks if you have buildings or plants in the way. Or a mountain.

What BitZtream meant (I think) is that a clunky old analog handset (Motorola Microtec, Startec, Nokia 918) would only get like 1 day standby time, while a digital (GSM, TDMA, CDMA) dumb phone can get like a week. That is an analog vs digital issue.

As far as smart phones, my Android phone will get like 3 days standby if data and wifi are turned off and it's used purely as a dumb phone, and a day if data or wifi is running.

A lot of digital mobile technology has a maximum range of about 35km. This is due to latency from being so far from the tower, and not being able to use the designated timeslot. I believe some rural towers open up the tolerances because range is more important than total capacity (compared to a city). With AMPS you're on a dedicated channel so latency isn't a problem

Re:Not satellite access required. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419805)

Batteries lasting a couple of days vs one has nothing to do with digital vs analog. I have had a digital (GSM) phone with a battery that lasts for two weeks easily. Batteries these days don't last more than a day because of those gigaherzes of cpu to power, inches of screen to light and constant communications for smartness.

Well, it sort of did. Analog cell phones had much higher transmit power, so they typically ran down batteries much faster. To provide the same talk time, they used bigger batteries. So when you had dual-mode phones, while in digital mode, they probably got better talk time than digital-only cell phones at the time (but still half that of modern smartphones, thanks to better battery tech).

Also, because the towers didn't have to pick up a whisper at ten miles, I suspect their antennas weren't as directional. If I'm correct in that suspicion, then the analog phones would probably have worked better from an aircraft than modern digital phones do.

Re:Not satellite access required. (1)

ibennetch (521581) | about a year and a half ago | (#42422955)

And by the way - GSM goes easily to 35k feet (11km) - if there are no obstrucions - you know - like in the AIR. We use a ferry to travel from Tallinn (Estonia) to Helsinki (Finland) and only right in the middle of this ~80 KM journey is there no cell reception from either shore. I would extrapolate that at least 30 km (3 times the height of commercial air traffic) is easily doable.
Cell phone reception only sucks if you have buildings or plants in the way. Or a mountain.

Just because you have good reception straight out from the tower at 30km doesn't mean you'll have good service 11km in the air. The cell phone towers are tuned to have good horizontal coverage, not vertically. It's not a perfect sphere of coverage; these are directional arrays that are designed to provide coverage where most of their customers are...on the ground. The first link [blogspot.com] that came up in my Google search seems to have some more information about coverage patterns.

Good luck w/ regards to pricing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42417613)

I work in the avionics industry and for my function we have to make two different report types - a verbose one to be retrieved on-ground only and another, more condensed version for transmission while in-flight. Usually you're talking about a reduction from 100's of kB to 10's kB. All because any and all methods of in-flight data transmission are extremely expensive to the airlines. Doesn't matter what protocol you're going to be using, they're all expensive. Most airlines usually prefer that you just queue up the data and wait until the plane can connect to at-gate wifi to xfer all non-critical data.

So do you really think that airlines will just pony up the cost of, what, an average of 10 MB of data per connected passenger that's NOT using a streaming service such as Netflix or Pandora? You're talking millions of dollars per airplane per year, easily. Not a chance, that cost will get passed on to the passengers somehow.

Re:Good luck w/ regards to pricing (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417621)

BS. It hasn't been 'expensive' for a few years. See my previous post. Its no more expensive to do it on an airplane than it is to do it on a cell phone. In fact, ITS EXACTLY THE SAME THING.

Re:Good luck w/ regards to pricing (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417651)

WiFi on Southwest is only $5 per day right now, which is less than gogo charges for WiFi in the airport!

Re:Good luck w/ regards to pricing (2)

FSWKU (551325) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417749)

WiFi on Southwest is only $5 per day right now, which is less than gogo charges for WiFi in the airport!

And in my experience, it's HORRIBLY slow. Last time I went to Texas, I noticed the return AUS->BNA flight had it and figured "why not?" Web pages took forever to load and would frequently time out, the onboard hosted content wasn't exactly snappy, and even AIM and IRC had trouble keeping a connection.

Re:Good luck w/ regards to pricing (4, Informative)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418031)

Yes, it is slow. When I have used it, it gave me slightly better than dial-up speeds and, on occasion, I would lose connectivity for a few minutes. Basically, good enough for email and light surfing. I also downloaded a few PDFs.

On the other hand, I am sitting 7 miles in the air, moving at several hundred miles an hour and able to access the Internet! Sure, it isn't a great connection, but I'm 7 miles in the air - so I think it's pretty sweet.

Re:Good luck w/ regards to pricing (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417709)

Aircraft will be using something like HughesNet [hughesnet.com] . They might have to throttle the onboard WiFi speeds to keep everyone from streaming video simultaneously. But for web surfing, e-mail, some gaming (latency might be an issue), etc. it will be just fine. And for reasonable* prices.

* Nothing like millions of dollars per plane per year.

Re:Good luck w/ regards to pricing (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417935)

Assuming, of course, that they don't get FAP'ed within 12 minutes of takeoff, and end up with an entire plane sharing the equivalent of dialup 9600 baud.

Re:Good luck w/ regards to pricing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418077)

I guess you're thinking of ACARS which is a system that was developed in the 1970's. Did you perhaps think that technology might have advanced since then?

Re:Good luck w/ regards to pricing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42420589)

If he's talking speeds as fast as 10s of kilobytes per second, he's not thinking of any ACARS system I've worked with.

Re:Good luck w/ regards to pricing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42419205)

I guess you should explain that to Virgin Airlines.

I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (3, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417615)

I don't really need internet access on a flight, but when I'm on a 3 hour flight and I am running so many applications on my laptop that my battery is only good for 2 hours, I would really love to have an outlet to plug in and keep my battery charged. Unfortunately most of the planes I've been on in the past 7-10 years have been of the regional jet variety which generally don't have AC outlets for anyone.

As much as I generally am rather fond of the EmbraerJets, I am rather annoyed that they never give me anywhere to plug in my laptop, it would well offset my frustration over the inability to stand up in the aisle.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (2, Interesting)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417631)

I'm mac, and I use this: http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB441Z/A/apple-magsafe-airline-adapter [apple.com]

Perhaps you should see what you need for your laptop. I've not had a power issues in a couple of years thanks to having the right adapter.

Expecting to plug in to AC is rather retarded on an aircraft as it would require large inverters to power a full aircraft, and then all the inverters are going to do is power your converter thats going to bounce it back down to essentially the same voltage as it started out as.

AC power is only good for long range transmission and large motors, beyond that, DC is what you want and you don't want to go bouncing around between the two any more than you have to.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417681)

While that is useful if the plane has any sort of seat power, most of the RJs (regional jets) don't have anything. And given the poor economic performance of most airlines and the typically limited competition (at least at the regional level) upgrading the seats isn't going to happen quickly, you're more likely to solve your computing problem by getting a laptop with a better battery.

And, of course, there is always the iPad and similar ilk.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417689)

Are you in the US? Few if any domestic flights have power (DC or AC), in cattle class anyways. (Maybe I just fly the wrong airlines? Nope. [usatoday.com] )

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417723)

Few if any domestic flights have power (DC or AC), in cattle class anyways.

So bring a 100 foot extension cord and reel it out up to first class.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418111)

Virgin America has outlets at all seats. And in-flight WiFi, coincidentally.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

skine (1524819) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418233)

Virgin America flies to 22 airports, in 18 metro areas, or 15 US metro areas.

So, if you're traveling non-stop on one coast, or with one stop in Chicago between coasts, and you happen to be traveling between two of these fifteen locations, then Virgin is definitely an option.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418253)

Virgin flies non-stop from JFK to SFO and LAX. I always try to fly it whenever possible. They don't have a lot of routes and their prices are not lowest, but they have very good service for the price and nice new airplanes.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42419225)

I wish they were still on the international side of SFO. They are the best airline I've ever dealt with. I'd use them exclusively if they flew everywhere I had to go.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (3, Interesting)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419231)

Virgin is arguably the best airline that currently operates in the US. If they had flights to Vancouver they would be my default airline.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417771)

Perhaps you should see what you need for your laptop. I've not had a power issues in a couple of years thanks to having the right adapter.

Regional Jets don't have that kind of plug, either. Hell some of them don't even have room for full-size carry-on bags, you have to gate check just about anything larger than a briefcase. Any kind of electricity would be a convenience that the airlines don't care to provide.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

Idbar (1034346) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417875)

Geez, 50 for a cable (or a DC/DC converter if it's even that)? I carry a $10 power inverter, that comes with 1AC output and 1USB port. I've traveled recently on many airplanes with AC outlets and some with this cigarette lighter connector. Flights on crappy jets are probably less than 1 hour long anyways.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

cynyr (703126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42420601)

The last planes I was on for the 3.5 to 4 hour flight between MSP and SAN, were a 757 and a MD90. Neither have any sort of power anywhere on the plane. A 4 hour flight on a workstation laptop running autocad/inventor is just never going to work. Nor is it going to work for a movie.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418055)

Expecting to plug in to AC is rather retarded on an aircraft as it would require large inverters to power a full aircraft, and then all the inverters are going to do is power your converter thats going to bounce it back down to essentially the same voltage as it started out as.

Actually, the plane sockets provide very little power - usually under 55W or so. For a small laptop, not a big deal, but a larger ones will often require entering special modes that disable battery charging (I believe the Apple one tells the laptop to not charge the battery, for other laptops, you should remove the battery). Otherwise there's a chance you can trip the power outlet and it won't provide any more power until it's reset.

They're not providing full 15A to the AC sockets. Just barely 0.5A. Though the airline sockets are the same, really - 28V @ 2A.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

matunos (1587263) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418155)

Expecting to plug in to AC is rather retarded on an aircraft[...]

"Retarded" though it may be, Virgin Atlantic has them, as do many (most?) international flights.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42422293)

Actually power on aircraft is generated as AC, either from the engines or a dedicated fuel-burning unit. Often it is at a different frequency to normal mains, but is converted to say 230V/50Hz or 110V/60Hz to run small appliances like microwaves and coffee makers, as well as provide power for 1st class passengers and the in-flight entertainment system.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

noh8rz9 (2716595) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417799)

Why don't you get a better computer like a Mac. It has good battery life. 8 hours.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417871)

Why don't you get a better computer like a Mac. It has good battery life. 8 hours.

Not when it is running Photoshop, Illustrator, Powerpoint, Excel, and Word simultaneously it doesn't. Some of us need to do actual work with our laptops, and will get less than the optimal battery life expectancy from them as a result - even with 8gb ram. I pretty well always have at least 3 of those 5 running at any given time, and often all 5; it's what I need to do in order to put a presentation together.

It's called work, try it sometime and you might come to know what I'm talking about.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418121)

My Retina MacBook Pro can last about 5 hours of typical Scala/Java development (i.e. working inside an IDE, occasional incremental compilation, running). That's enough even for coast-to-coast flights and mostly sufficient for cross-Atlantic flights.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418147)

Not everyone who works needs that much power draw.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419611)

Not when it is running Photoshop, Illustrator, Powerpoint, Excel, and Word simultaneously it doesn't.

Here's a crazy thought.... Close some applications!

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419733)

Not when it is running Photoshop, Illustrator, Powerpoint, Excel, and Word simultaneously it doesn't.

Here's a crazy thought.... Close some applications!

Have you considered the crazy possibility that I might have them open all at the same time because I need them open at the same time? If I close any one of them then I'm not working on my presentation, which is my most frequent task when I am packed into steerage class on the flying sardine cans. Being as most of my travel is for work - meaning I am likely going somewhere to do a presentation - the flight is a great place to finish putting said presentation together.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419783)

Being as most of my travel is for work - meaning I am likely going somewhere to do a presentation - the flight is a great place to finish putting said presentation together.

As I posted earlier, I'm *Gold, flew 66 segments last year, many of them flights to presentations. I've given hundreds of them and I've never been in a situation where I needed all those apps open at the same time. Time for a compromise somewhere.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419829)

Being as most of my travel is for work - meaning I am likely going somewhere to do a presentation - the flight is a great place to finish putting said presentation together.

As I posted earlier, I'm *Gold, flew 66 segments last year, many of them flights to presentations. I've given hundreds of them and I've never been in a situation where I needed all those apps open at the same time

Well, then, your presentations likely don't involve the types of data that mine do.

Time for a compromise somewhere.

So you suggest I should quit my job and change to a different career path? These applications are key to my life's work. I use all of them, or I have no job.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42420225)

So you suggest I should quit my job and change to a different career path?

No, I mean compromise by flying an airline with inflight power or compromise by doing the presentations before you fly (like I did in the good ol' days) or compromise by opening and closing apps as you need them or compromise by buying a power pad battery or compromise by leaving early so you can work on them in your hotel room when you arrive or...

...compromise.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42420669)

No, I mean compromise by flying an airline with inflight power

Not available in my market at any price. My market is served pretty well exclusively by regional jets and older 737s.

or compromise by doing the presentations before you fly (like I did in the good ol' days)

Not possible when I am flying at most one day after that last day of data collection.

or compromise by opening and closing apps as you need them

Opening and closing photoshop and illustrator every five minutes is penny-wise and pound-foolish, at best.

or compromise by buying a power pad battery

Good luck getting that through airport security...

or compromise by leaving early so you can work on them in your hotel room when you arrive

For some odd reason the airlines don't ask for my input when they set their time tables. Rarely do I have more than one outgoing flight a day going in the right direction relative to where I need to go.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42421023)

Good luck getting that through airport security...

Man, you're an obstinate fellow. I carry mine through security all the time, with no problems.

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

noh8rz9 (2716595) | about a year and a half ago | (#42420877)

I'm calling you out on your bs. I've seen battery life take a hit because of intensive computing, but never because of full ram. I guarantee that you're not doing intensive computing on more than one app at a time. They are almost all running idle. So it's time to stop blaming others and look in the mirror. As suggested below,mwhy not get a battery pack? Then maybe you'll stop whining

Re:I'd be happy just to have an AC outlet... (1)

cynyr (703126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42420625)

Care to show me a portable Mac with a workstation GPU? (FireGL or Quatro)

Okay, even if you could get one of those, what do you think they would do to the battery life? Workstation cards tend to have only minimal power saving modes.

Why apply? (1)

Chewbacon (797801) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417683)

Seriously, it's obviously been decided that it's as safe to use wifi inflight as it is around coffee machines and baristas, so why make an application process? Or does Starbucks has to apply now? Oh, wait, I missed that part about the FCC. Sorry I raised the question.

Re:Why apply? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418019)

why make an application process?

Money.

Re:Why apply? (1)

jonwil (467024) | about a year and a half ago | (#42425295)

The issue is not that it is or isn't safe to use WiFi inflight, the reason for FCC approval is for 2 things:
1.Device approval for all the devices that pick up WiFi signals and translate them into either a satellite up-link or a down-link to a ground station. (this may be done once for a given device or it may have to be done differently for each individual aircraft model based on the exact setup of different components it uses)
and 2.Approval to transmit on the frequencies used for these links to the outside world. (which currently has to be done for each aircraft)

I think what the FCC is trying to do here is to change it so that the airlines can get approval for each new internet-enabled aircraft much faster and easier.

Welcome to the 21st century (1)

NetNinja (469346) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418051)

The FAA, they always seem to be on that leading edge of change.

Re:Welcome to the 21st century (1)

matunos (1587263) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418159)

You misspelled FCC.

Re:Welcome to the 21st century (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42418647)

How DO you spell FCC, anyway? And does anyone know the number for 911?

Ad sponsored content is free riding (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418143)

If there is ever a Pirate Party revolution, it will be one of the first things outlawed, and one of the very few with the death penalty.

Project Divert Attension from TSA: Success!! (1)

detain (687995) | about a year and a half ago | (#42418493)

This can't be an issue for most, and going by all the press over the last year this isn't the problem that most people are concerned with.

Having to pay is actually a good thing. (1)

PhotoJim (813785) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419559)

Think of it now. We all know how much WiFi sucks when it's overused. That's what advertising-supported on-board Internet will be like. It will be slow (the bandwidth to the ground is single-digit megabits per second, so divide that by 50 to 300 passengers - and some passengers will have multiple devices).

On the other hand, charge a a few bucks for it and only the people who really want it will pay for it. Yes, some will be business users, but I already think the pay-per-day prices aren't all that bad. If I'm bored, especially on a a long flight, I'll happily pay ten or twenty bucks to go online and kill some time. If the fun or utility of the Internet isn't high enough, I'll do something else that doesn't cost me anything, just like I do now.

If it's free I fear that there will be dozens of people on a plane trying to watch streaming video or listen to streaming audio, or running torrents t get content. The layperson just doesn't understand how bandwidth works. They have tens of megabits at home and they expect they'll have it everywhere, but they can't and they won't. Every user will struggle to get dialup speeds if the now-precious resource is just given away for free.

Offline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42419835)

it's kind of sad that we lose this justification for making applications work off line. Things like Office 2013 and even OS login may start requiring internet access to not crash. I'm all for progress though

FAA Does Not Rule The Airlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42420355)

To the Airlines, Greed, Thievery, Extortion, Bribery and above all Control will never be changed by any FAA of any 'Civil' Government.

Indeed, today the airline passenger is steerage.

Steerage to be beaten by the mighty hand of those in control.

9/11 was a Godsend Day for the Airlines: It rendered unto them the greatest control of steerage the world has not seen since the Spanish
invasions of Central and South America.

Control is Empire and the Airlines will not give up control of their steerage, so help them God.

Unknown health risk from exposure in metal planes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42422895)

The reporter missed an extremely important piece of this story.....
the fact that the FCC's move to increase access to WIFI on planes fails to take into consideration the levels of increased exposure passengers receive from WIFI's microwave radiation within the metal enclosures of planes. The FDA and FCC are mandated by Congress to monitor and protect citizens from the known health hazards from microwave radiation exposure.

And, they are failing to do so!

Nowhere in the FCC's 90 page document advocating for increased access to broadband on planes is mention of potential health impacts in spite of the World Health Organization declaring that exposure to microwave radiation from wireless devices may cause cancer.....placing RF exposure in the same category as lead and DDT.

The FCC is run by the telecom industry and our elected officials are "bought off" by enormous campaign contributions which demand they look the other way.

It is disappointing that media is not covering the REAL story here.

Re:Unknown health risk from exposure in metal plan (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year and a half ago | (#42425391)

The increased radiation from being at 35k feet is far far worse than wifi, or even an X-ray or two.

Air pirates welcome (1)

arttulaine (258278) | about a year and a half ago | (#42423377)

As the CIA has already nicely cleared the issue for travelers, if something is done at an aircraft, is is not really a concern of any jurisdiction. Please enjoy the total freedom of an airborne wifi network, semi-responsively.

ad-backed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42424453)

Please no! I mean.. internet is just not that expensive. They can offer free low speed internet (for email and web browsing, chat, etc.) just as they can offer free water. Since there will be 100 people on the plaine, if you want super high speed internet for like streaming movies maybe you should pay $5 or something. Ads just annoy everyone.

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42428351)

Foreign flagged airlines solved this long. It's only the protectionist rules of the FAA the keep foreign airlines from flying domestic routes that keep already-equipped- for-Internet AND 120 ac power from us skies. That and us airlines not maintaining or upgrading capital equipment so they can make a few more bucks. Fuck US- flagged airlines!

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