Wi-Fi on airplanes: the next frontier in mobile civility...or incivility

I noticed several Web posts dealing with this basic idea: with a growing number of airlines (and rail lines and bus lines) offering Wi-Fi Internet access for passengers, are there and should there be any limits on what you should do with that access? United Airlines is the latest to announce it will offer airborne Internet access, with the service rolling out on some planes and flights later this year. These inflight services let client Wi-Fi devices access a specialized, nationwide cellular network from AirCell. I don't have personal experience of this (and given our budget travel cutbacks, I'm not likely to). But I'm curious: have you used Wi-Fi on jets, or sat next to someone who did? Did you adjust your browsing habits because you were sitting next to someone? Did you wish they had adjusted theirs? And, with Internet access possible on long flights, has your company set any rules for being online and accessible during flights? Comments in response to logger Ann Althouse's post about welcoming airborne Wi-Fi show some of the concerns and issues. "How's about in-plane Halo tournaments?" asked one, one of many uses that could severely impact the network's performance, I'm guessing. "And what happens, pray tell, when M. or Mme. X clicks into hardcore porn while eight-year-old Child Y is in the next seat?" asked another. "It all works well as long as everybody plays by the same rules. But as there are no rules, there's going to be some friction along the way..." David Pogue has used the service and likes it. But one commenter said "I hope they block Skype or we’ll have fistfights at 30,000 feet." A recent story in the International Herald Tribune noted the "guilt factor" -- the new service could act as a lash to traveling employees, who instead of taking a nap or otherwise relaxing during a long flight, will now be expected to be reachable and productive. One travel blogger noted "Now some will say, what’s the big deal? You’re just sitting there anyway. True, but - as we all know, traveling today is a bear. There are the crowds at the airport, all that waiting in line, the scrambling for something to eat, and - the working on a laptop in very cramped quarters." Jonathan Cifuente, self-described "recovering technophiliac," has his list of what to do and what not to do with airborne Wi-Fi, including two that are often cited: don't surf porn sites, and do use headphones. At the very least, I'd hope that a seatmate violating the first one, would honor the second one.... Mobility with ubiquitous network access seems to be changing if not perverting the meaning of privacy. The experience of mobile devices, of access to the applications and sites and content of your choice, is highly personal. But for some people, like those mobile phone users who talk aloud, sometimes really aloud, about stuff you never want to know, the personal trumps the private. "It's all about me and you don't have a right to tell me to restrain me." I don't think that bodes well for human beings jammed into cramped aluminum tubes on transcontinental flights. What do you think? What's been your experience? What are your do's and don'ts? Any changes in your company policies about this issue?


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