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Court Ruling Keeps In-Flight Wi-Fi Slow & Expensive

by Fox Van Allen on April 12, 2013

If you’ve ever used the in-flight wireless service GoGo, then you know how slow and spotty the service can be. Streaming video is disabled because the data pipes can’t handle it. Outages are as unpredictable as they are frequent. And let’s not even get started on the exorbitant $17.95-per-flight price tag – I’m trying to watch my blood pressure.

Those facts factor heavily into why a group of fed-up airline passengers filed a class action against GoGo, alleging it holds an illegal monopoly over the in-flight wireless business. But United States District Court Judge Edward Chen dismissed the suit Thursday despite finding that GoGo services 85% of planes with Wi-Fi service.

The passengers’ suit argues that the nations’ airlines are stuck in one of the worst wireless contracts ever. GoGo uses ground-to-air tower transmission technology in its service, cramming all passengers’ data into one brutally slow 3G wireless connection. Technologically advanced competitors with superior service exist, but airlines are forbidden from switching until the expiration of GoGo’s standard 10-year contract. And as if the punishment of slower speeds weren’t enough, GoGo has boosted the price of its service from $7.95 to as much as $17.95 per flight, more than triple what their largest competitor charges for faster service.

Ultimately, the judge found that GoGo doesn’t hold a monopoly because 84% of U.S. airplanes do not currently have in-flight wireless of any kind. These planes could be outfitted by a competitor, the logic argues.

There is some comfort for those of us who like to use the Internet while flying the friendly skies, even in the wake of the ruling. Panasonic entered the in-flight wireless game in January when it forged an agreement to outfit 300 United planes with faster Ku-band satellite Wi-Fi service by the end of the year.


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