You Might Not Be Able to Use In-Flight WiFi for Video Chatting Anymore
Tech writer and blogger John Battelle started something of an Internet snarkfest earlier this week, when his iChat to his two little girls, done during the middle of a United flight, was shut down by a security-minded steward. While using in-flight wifi for air-to-ground communication was in bounds, cameras were apparently verboten. Upon pressing for an explanation, Battelle was shown a United policy manual banning "two way devices," which the steward understood as video chat. Punchline courtesy of Gawker: "other in-flight wifi uses were OK, since terrorists don't tweet or email."
On one hand this has the feel of one of those urban legend TSA regulations, like the occasionally enforced TSA ban on security checkpoint photography that doesn't actually exist. On the other hand it might be like TSA's post-Christmas attack freakout regulations, which were real but stupid. "We're turning off the in-flight GPS so you won't know when we're close to landing, even though we're sitting you down exactly 60 minutes beforehand and you'll hear the landing gear lock about 20 minutes out." So which was it?
Neither, actually. What actually seems to have happened has nothing to do with a TSA screwup and everything to do with some mostly reasonable - if somewhat badly explained - regulations. We were as surprised as anybody else.
According to this FAA fact sheet, airlines go out of their way to ban VOIP applications from the air for their own reasons. They have no problem with you looking at your kids and they have no problem with you texting your kids. But they'd prefer it if you didn't have the option of talking to your kids, because then it would be like everyone on board had a cell phone.
And - as we've been saying since in-flight cell phones first became an issue - that'd be pretty damn annoying.
[Photo: davitydave / Flickr]
· Video Chat on the Plane? Illegal? OK? Legal Gray Area? [SearchBlog]
· TSA [Jaunted]
· In-Flight Wifi [Jaunted]