Wireless Internet on Planes

by Kieran Healy on December 16, 2004

Via “Slashdot”:http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/12/16/005256&tid=126&tid=193, news that the FCC has “voted to allow”:http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&e=2&u=/ap/20041215/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/fcc_air_travelers wireless internet on flights, something that’s been available outside the U.S. here and there (e.g., on Lufthansa, I think). On the upside, this is one amenity that they’ll have a hard time restricting to first and business class. But the realm of Court Cases You Will Hear About Soon on the Volokh Conspiracy now includes the one about the guy who started browsing pornographic sites a couple of hours into the flight. My prediction is that the first offenders will be in business or first class, where they’ll think they have enough room to chance it.



Nicholas Weininger 12.16.04 at 3:06 am

People can already view previously-downloaded porn on their laptop screens, or read porn mags, or watch porn DVDs on those portable DVD players designed for flights. If wireless Internet porn were really going to be such a problem, you’d think one of these things would already have caused that problem.

Of course, maybe they have and I just haven’t heard about it.


Kieran Healy 12.16.04 at 3:12 am

True, true. I wonder if the instant internet gateway will make it more likely, though, as opposed to having to pack your pr0n ahead of time.


PZ Myers 12.16.04 at 3:18 am

Is it illegal to view pornography in flight? I don’t understand why this would be an issue. It’s crass, but if crassness was a foul business class would be shut down.


Kieran Healy 12.16.04 at 3:40 am

Dunno. There have been some issues with people driving along the interstate at night watching stuff on their in-minivan video screens.


Jacques Distler 12.16.04 at 8:02 am

Umh, here in Austin, where just about every café, deli, or oil-change place has free wifi, the ugly problem of laptop pr0n in public places does not seem to have arisen.

Of course, it’s possible that

  1. The boredom of waiting for an oil-and-filter change does not compare with the boredom of a long plane flight.
  2. Since even our “gentlemen’s clubs” have free wifi, the issue may just not have come up for … ahem … other reasons.

nick 12.16.04 at 8:52 am

On the upside, this is one amenity that they’ll have a hard time restricting to first and business class.

You think so? Hotels and airports already do a good job of restricting wireless access. Give complimentary WEP/WPA passwords to those in first/business class, and force those in steerage to go through a pay-to-play system.


Kieran Healy 12.16.04 at 1:06 pm

Gaah, yes of course. I’d forgotten about WPA passwords. Bastards.


Tom T. 12.16.04 at 1:39 pm

There have been a couple of news items lately where a passing driver sees a pornographic scene playing on a portable DVD player in another car (and then complains about it to the media or the local authorities, who seem vaguely horrified yet perplexed). That’s a little bit different situation, though, I suppose. Whether or not it’s justified, a person in a car probably feels a level of privacy that an airplane passenger does not.


Brett Bellmore 12.16.04 at 3:47 pm

Sounds like more of a display technology issue than anything else; There ARE display types that are visible only to the user.


Tom Bozzo 12.16.04 at 4:54 pm

The system (Connexion by Boeing) used by Lufthansa allows airlines to filter web content. I’d be surprised if some filtering weren’t used.


Matt Weiner 12.16.04 at 5:41 pm

Was the driver watching the porn? That would be complaint-worthy.

I remember sitting in Temple Plaza in Salt Lake City, reading Alasdair Gray’s 1982 Janine, and hoping no one looked over my shoulder.


BenA 12.17.04 at 3:37 am

Last year, in a great example of its ability to create “solutions” for non-problems while ignoring actual problems, my state’s legislature (Oklahoma’s, that is) passed, and the governor signed into law, a measure against so-called “drive-by porn” (love the term), i.e. people watching pornography in motor vehicles.

Worth noting that at the time both houses of the legislature, as well as the governorship, were in Democratic hands (though this brilliant measure was largely dreamed up by Thad Balkman, a GOP State Rep so odious that Toby Keith actively raised money for his Democratic opponent this year).

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