Federal law enforcement agencies say they're all in favor of airline passengers being able to surf the Web and send and receive emails, as long as the feds are able to listen in.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other agencies have told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) they want to be able to iintercept, block or divert email and other airborne communications, after obtaining a court order. Internet providers would be required to enable government monitoring within 10 minutes of an order being issued.
DHS wants the providers to be able to identify Internet users by their seat number and to retain complete records of passengers' Internet usage for at least 24 hours.
The government fears that terrorists could use the Internet to coordinate attacks and even detonate remote-controlled explosive devices on airplanes using airborne Internet.
In a filing with the FCC, DHS said federal agencies have only "a short window of opportunity" to detect and thwart suidical terrorist hijackings or other crisis situations. The proposed requirements go well beyond those imposed on earthbound Internet providers but DHS said the potential danger of airborne attacks justifies the measures.
The FCC has been studying the technical issues involved in providing Internet and cell phone access on commercial airliners. A few international carriers already offer such service.
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