Capitalism is about free markets, except when one of your campaign contributors can be harmed. At least that's what's the stale old smell suggests that hangs around the discussion about using mobile phones on airplanes.
The US mobile operator Verizon is currently the largest provider of in flight telephony services, charging a hefty $10 per minute fee for international calls passengers make using the satellite phones that are attached to seats. Little surprise that the company has been a fierce opponent of introducing competition.
Increasing competition however finally seems to be on the radar of the Federal Trade Commision (FCC), the US government body that regulates the airwaves in the nation where consumer's rights take a backseat to commercial interests. The FCC is headed up by Michael Powell, son of Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State (foreign affairs) and chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War (but there is no relation there of course).
Airlines for a long time have maintained that mobile phones interfere with the airplane's systems, even though there is little evidence to support that claim. And even now that the high altitude telephony monopoly is nearing its end, the Air Transport Association has started a stall and delay game, claiming that it needs another 2 to 3 years to solve concerns over interference.
Meanwhile Lufthansa has started offering wifi service on some of its flights, with All Nippon Airways, China Airlines, Japan Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, and Singapore Airlines soon to follow. Instead of waiting for the FCC to finish its lobby dance, I'd just use Skype or some other VoIP service.
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