Why Inflight Wi-Fi Sucks and Is Getting More Expensive—And How It Might Get Better

The internet on airplanes sucks. Yes, it's amazing. But it also very rarely works well, and it's getting more expensive. Huh? Buzzfeed took a look into why that is, and if there's any chance of things getting better.

Here's the problem: GoGo pretty much has a monopoly on inflight internet, since it bought up all the Air to Ground spectrum in 2006. It's got exclusive rights to those. And its infrastructure makes it easy for airlines to install GoGo on planes. Couple that with an increase in use—up to 5.4 percent over the first six months of this year, from 4.3 over the same period last year, and 26 percent on SF to NY flights—and a limit of about 3Mbit/s of bandwidth on each flight, and it's easy to see why GoGo is getting away with charging up to $10/hour.

So what's the solution? JetBlue is working on a free inflight Wi-Fi solution, and Southwest already has a $5/flight option. They're using satellite systems which are tougher to install, but offer greater bandwidth. The problem is, there's less infrastructure in place for satellite internet, so it's a slower process to build it out. That's especially true for JetBlue, which is using the newer and inexpensive Ka band.

There are more specifics, which you can and should check out in the full BuzzFeed piece, but here's the takeaway: Inflight internet isn't some inalienable right, but it's something people have come to depend on, and choose their airlines accordingly. It's going to get better, but for now, it seems pretty obvious that GoGo will not be the answer. [BuzzFeed]