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Apparently, There’s No Future in This Thing They Call the Internet

At least not on airplanes. That’s what Boeing has decided. As someone who has bought wireless internet aboard a Boeing flight (I believe it was on Lufthansa, going to Germany), I recently received this e-mail:

Dear Customer,

On August 17, 2006, the Boeing Company announced that after a detailed analysis of the Connexion by Boeing business, the company has decided to exit the high-speed broadband communications connectivity market. Boeing is now working with its customers to facilitate an orderly phase out of the Connexion by Boeing service. Passengers traveling on Internet-equipped flights will be able to use the service until it is phased out which will occur between now and the end of the year, depending on the airline. For the full text of the company’s announcement click here.

The e-mail goes on to answer some Frequently Asked Questions, including this one:

Why are you shutting down?

Although the product works well and customers who have used it have a high regard for the service, the global market for the service has not developed satisfactorily and the company has decided to discontinue offering the service.

I am a little surprised and a lot saddened that Internet access is moving in this direction instead of the opposite one. Flying would be about 1000% more pleasurable for me if I had Internet access. One obstacle, in this country at least, is that some people are worried that airline passengers would use their Internet access to make noisy phone calls; that is the subtext of this N.Y. Times article from several months ago, which concerned the FCC’s auction of frequencies for airborne Internet access.

But as the Boeing announcement shows, this doesn’t seem to be the problem at all. Rather, there simply weren’t enough people willing to buy the service. Could it be that, on European flights especially, traveling with a laptop has become so onerous because of security measures that people have resorted to — egads! — simply reading a book instead?