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US government pushes for greater use of tablets and smartphones on flights

07 Dec 2012

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is said to be pressing aviation regulators to loosen restrictions on the use of personal electronics on flights.

Government news site The Hill cited a letter it had obtained from FCC chairman Julius Genachowski directed to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in reporting that the FCC was pressing for new rules.

In the letter, Genachowski is said to lobby officials to "enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices," during flights.

Currently, officials restrict the usage of devices to specific times of both domestic and international flights, requiring all devices be shut down during the takeoff and landing process. While some airlines have begun offering limited Wi-Fi access, most airlines require users to keep their devices on "airplane mode" settings which disable wireless communications.

According to The Hill report, Genachowski is lobbying the FAA for looser rules on the grounds that users are increasingly dependant on the devices for everyday use.

The report comes as airlines are working to add further network connectivity to their in-flight services. Earlier this week Google inked a deal with Virgin America to offer select YouTube videos as part of the airline's in-flight entertainment package.

Virgin has also dabbled with enabling mobile access, permitting a select number of users to make mobile calls during flights.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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