Travel Notes: FCC to boost high-speed Wi-Fi

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Getting delayed at an airport may be less of a headache in the future if you are traveling with a smartphone, laptop or tablet computer.

The Federal Communications Commission said it is increasing by 35 percent the availability of high-speed wireless Internet at airports, convention centers and conference hubs.

Internet users would be able to access higher Wi-Fi speeds, and that means more portable devices could stream high-definition movies and television.

The effort was announced by FCC chairman Julius Genachowski at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He said the FCC will take the first steps in February to release up to 195 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 gigahertz band. He called it the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be released for Wi-Fi use since 2003.

"As this spectrum comes online, we expect it to relieve congested Wi-Fi networks at major hubs like convention centers and airports," he said.

The one possible glitch is that the 5 gigahertz band is already in use, predominantly by federal agencies, and must be reallocated for the public. But Mr. Genachowski said the FCC plans to act on this quickly.

Exploding coffee pouches

Flight attendants, forced to work long hours with little rest and battle unruly passengers with oversized carry-on bags, could also face another midair hazard: exploding coffee filters.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a safety alert to all airlines warning that packages of coffee grounds enclosed in filters have burst while coffee was being brewed in commercial planes.

The FAA has recorded about a dozen coffee explosions in the past 10 years, causing first and second-degree burns to flight attendants and passengers.

Just before the coffee pouch bursts, flight attendants might see water overflowing from the brewer and hear a hissing sound, the FAA warned. When flight attendants lift the coffee pot handle, the hot grounds can splatter on the face, neck, hands and arms of anyone nearby, the agency said.

FAA officials say accidents can be avoided if flight attendants keep the coffee maker clean and refrain from doubling or folding the coffee pouches.

The Association of Flight Attendants is collecting information to warn its 60,000 members to take precautions, association spokeswoman Corey Caldwell said.

"We are reaching out to our safety committees at each carrier to assess the situation," she said.

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