The commission previously authorized airlines to offer high-speed Internet on flights via an ad hoc basis, according to the FCC.
In a statement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the new rules will "enable providers to bring broadband to planes more efficiently, helping passengers connect with friends, family, or the office.”
“Whether traveling for work or leisure, Americans increasingly expect broadband access everywhere they go," he said.
In contrast to the commission's previous ad hoc process, airlines must now meet more streamlined FCC standards, show that the broadband service does not interfere with aircraft systems and get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to the agency. The FCC said this should reduce the administrative burdens on applicants.
The agency has made a push for wider in-flight use of wireless gadgets, such as tablets and e-readers, on airplanes.
Earlier this month Genachowski called on the FAA to "enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices" during flights in a letter sent to Michael Huerta, the acting administrator of the FAA. The FCC chairman said these devices help people stay connected and enable businesses to be more productive and efficient.
The FAA launched a study group this summer to review its policies on in-flight use of electronic devices. In the letter to Huerta, Genachowski pledged to working with the FAA, airlines and manufacturers on the review.
— This post was updated at 3:57 p.m. to correct the application process airlines must go through.