A government and industry panel has recommended that the FAA loosen its ban on using e-readers, tablets, smartphones and other electronic devices in the passenger cabin below 10,000 ft. Though the specifics have not been made public, the recommendations broadly call for allowing the use of personal electronic devices (PED) at all altitudes, except for heavy PEDs, like laptops, that could become projectiles during a rapid acceleration or deceleration. Smartphones, when not in “flight mode,” would continue to be banned inflight, as the transmissions to the ground networks are controlled by the Federal Communications Commission, but Wi-Fi connections to onboard systems could be used at all altitudes.
How the FAA will respond to the recommendations is unclear, though comments received from airlines and industry groups to the agency's August 2012 open request for solutions reveal safety tradeoffs the FAA will consider. Comments indicate an “extremely remote” chance of interference with aircraft systems based on in-service experience.