The dream — or nightmare, depending on your proclivity for constant connectivity — of Wi-Fi at 30,000 feet is now a quotidian reality. But there’s one notable exception: India.
The world’s fastest-growing major air-travel market continues to holdout on on-board Wi-Fi in its airspace, even as neighbors Pakistan and China allow it, the Wall Street Journal reports. Its reason? Security concerns.
Onboard Wi-Fi is common on U.S. and many international carriers and has been certified safe by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration among other bodies. But despite clamor from carriers such as Jet Airways (India) and the Indian associates of Singapore Airlines (SINGY) and Malaysia’s AirAsia for the ban to be lifted, a deal has yet to transpire.
Its not just domestic carries that are affected by India’s ban. Because it extends to flights transiting over the country’s sprawling airspace, many long haul routes that link Asia with the Middle East and Europe pass through the black spot.
Last year, the International Air Transport Association found that 36% out of of some 7300 passengers it surveyed were willing to pay for onboard Wi-Fi.
“For business executives flying for an important meeting or presentation, it’s very painful to be cut off from the team during the flight,” Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defense at KPMG told WSJ.
“The fears about safety and security are a bit overstretched. The technology has been tested thoroughly and approved by international regulators,” Dubey added.
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This is not the first time airlines have pushed for flexibility on India’s restrictions. Back in August, Civil Aviation Secretary R.N. Choubey reportedly said that Wi-Fi ban could be nixed in as little as ten days, adding that it was a matter of ensuring authorities could sufficiently track onboard communications.
Four months later and it’s still no dice, despite an aviation ministry spokesman expressing support for changing the law.