Think-tank wonders whether banning in-flight VoIP constitutes a violation of FCC rules about blocking services: The Progress and Freedom Foundation's Barbara Espin uses the ban on in-flight VoIP by American Airlines (facilitated by provider Aircell) to make a broader argument about what she calls the FCC's "ad hoc approach to broadband network management issues." It's clever. American discloses that calling isn't allowed, and VoIP isn't even technically within the FAA or FCC's purview, as far as I can determine. The FAA could choose to regulate it as a safety issue. PFF generally tilts anti-regulation, and has as what it calls its "supporters" a broad area of multiple system cable operators and telecom firms, including Comcast, which was singled out and fined by the FCC for its undisclosed network disruption of P2P connections.
Espin references Joe Sharkey's excellent column on in-flight calling in Sunday's New York Times: Sharkey, a veteran travel writer, who survived a mid-air collision over the Brazilian Amazon a few years ago, looks at varying attitudes about calls made during flights. He quotes Aircell's Jack Blumenstein saying what I've telling folks for months: Aircell has a lot of techniques to block VoIP calls already, and "as we identify new ways that people are trying to do voice calls on the airplane, we just kind of zero in and knock those off." Many geeks have assumed Aircell is a bunch of unsavvy folks who wouldn't be able to figure out how to disrupt their clever workarounds for making VoIP. (I keep noting that introducing jitter for suspicious data connections wouldn't disrupt legitimate applications, but would destroy VoIP call quality.)