Nine Notebook Rules for Using Wi-Fi In-Flight

Artwork: Chip Taylor
We know (though don't always follow) etiquette for public cell phones use, but public laptop usage has avoided a social scrutiny until now. With in-flight Wi-Fi access now available on American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and Virgin America, the chance of being annoyed by your fellow passenger while trapped at 30,000 feet increases exponentially. After all, nobody wants to hear their seatmate cackle as they watch viral College Humor videos or read lame e-mail jokes.

Naturally, the carriers have already established a code of conduct for Wi-Fi use, but I believe the current rules don't go far enough. I propose a stricter, more punitive set of regulations that protect the innocent from the most boorish of Web users. Here are my suggestions. Feel free to add your own.

Nine Simple Rules for Web Use on Planes:

1. Regarding video downloads: Viewers of gory video clips or viral videos that primarily appeal to frat boys must sit in a special section. Other passengers may not want to watch sociopaths and beer chugging -- at least not during meal service.

2. Access to kids' Websites such as Noggin, Hannah Montana, and Teletubbies are just as disturbing and twice as loud. Toddlers with laptops will have to move to the special section as well.

3. Downloading Porn? Don't even think about it. (See section #1 about meal service.)

4. When it comes to streaming audio, headphones, earphones, or earbuds are required. Your digital device, be it a laptop, smart phone, or PDA, must be silent at all times. If it makes a sound, a flight attendant will confiscate it. An air marshal will then dismantle the device and jettison the remains.

5. Internet phone calls via Skype or another VoIP service should be allowed, as long as they're short. A two-minute maximum will be strictly enforced. An air marshal will time your calls with a stopwatch. (Note: American Airlines and other carriers currently prohibit VoIP calls. How else can they get you to use their ripoff in-flight phone service?)

6. No BitTorrent users or other bandwidth hogs. Save the bandwidth for everyone else.

7. Please don't pirate digital content. The RIAA may track your IP address to airplane and consider your seatmate an accomplice and sue him. Save the criminal activity for terra firma.

8. Don't share spammy chain-letter e-mail jokes with other passengers. And even if the jokes aren't stupid, you still can't share them.

9. No gigantic laptops. Netbooks are ideal for coach, but those 17-inch or larger monstrosities start to invade your fellow passengers' personal space. (Okay, so that one isn't about Wi-Fi, but please, no desktop replacements in coach. Please?)

Any rules you'd like to add? All suggestions welcome.

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