Feeds

FCC urges rethink of aircraft personal-electronics blackout

Signs of sanity over American skies

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

The head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has written to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asking for a rethink of the current ban on using electronic items in flight.

Currently all electronic devices have to be switched off on US aircraft operating below 10,000 feet, and can only used in flight-safe mode (i.e., with the radios turned off) above that ceiling. Now FCC boss Julius Genachowski is asking for a rethink.

"This review comes at a time of tremendous innovation, as mobile devices are increasingly interwoven in our daily lives," Genachowski wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill.

"They empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family," he wrote, "and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive and efficient, helping drive economic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness."

The FAA first started banning portable electronics on flights back in 1991, originally for devices using the 800MHz frequency range but now extending to portable electronics of all types. It looked again at the ban in 2004, but decided to do nothing, but has recently said it's examining its options.

There's no denying that the ban annoys air travelers, particularly since the rules as they stand make little sense. Electronic items that don't even have radios are included in the ban, for example, and there's never been a study that conclusively showed that passenger consumer electronics could cause serious problems for an aircraft.

Cabin crews also loath the rules, since it's a major point of friction between them and customers. Many pilots also question whether the ban is really necessary, particularly as the FAA has already certified them to use tablets at all stages of a flight if the fondleslabs contain flight data.

Keeping the ban on electronics, however, does have one major advantage as far as the FAA, airlines and aircraft manufacturers are concerned: it's cheap.

In order to certify electronics on aircraft, someone has to test each of the thousands of devices for interference on each type of commercial aircraft. But no one wants to pay for that, so it's simply more convenient to issue a blanket ban and leave the cabin crew to take the flak for it.

Hopefully the FCC letter may help nudge the FAA into a more reasonable frame of mind. But El Reg suspects that until a system is instituted for someone (probably the device manufacturers themselves) to pay the testing costs, we'll see no signs of sanity. ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.