Homeland Security Extends To In-Flight Broadband

from the don't-forget-your-frequent-spyer-card dept

As momentum gathers behind the use of mobile phones on airplanes, in-flight broadband is already being served up by a handful of European and Asian airlines. While no American airlines have signed up to offer the service, mostly for financial reasons, the government may soon throw up another barrier to entry: the Department of Justice, FBI and Department of Homeland Security want the FCC to mandate in-flight internet service fall under the same wiretap requirements as land-based ISPs. This means the networks would have to be wiretap-friendly and allow government officers to be able to start eavesdropping within 10 minutes of securing a court order. The Justice Department also wants to be able to identify users by name and seat number, and have the ability to cut off individuals’ access, or all passengers’ access on a particular flight. This new potential barrier to entry comes at the same time the FCC is looking at changing its licensing requirements to encourage more competition in the in-flight net access market. The security scenarios the government have come up with seem a little far-fetched, like the basis for many post-9/11 security regulations, and the requirements could make it more difficult for smaller competitors to enter the market — something one analyst points out could be the thrust of the DoJ and DHS proposal.

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