Unlike satellite technology, though, air-to-ground isn't suitable for overseas travel. Since ground towers have a radius of about 150 to 200 miles, the technology wouldn't work, for example, over the Atlantic. Pallone says the technology is intended for flights that operate within North America.
So is this what consumers want?
According to a December report published by market research firm In-Stat, 44 percent of those surveyed said that they would be interested in Wi-Fi on airplanes. "People are willing to pay something, but they're not willing to pay a lot," says Allen Nogee, principal analyst at In-Stat. However, he points out, business users can usually expense the charge.
Business traveler Jen Martin would like to see more Wi-Fi on planes. "A 9-plus-hour flight means I'm usually a day behind on e-mail already. The ability to conduct business during a long-haul flight seems like a no-brainer."
Not everyone is excited about the prospect, though. As business traveler Chris Charla puts it, "If you give me Wi-Fi, I will have to work. The airplane is the last place I can actually read a book during the day without guilt."