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Boeing Scraps In-flight Internet Access 215

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the world-not-yet-ready dept.
Dreamwalkerofyore writes "According to the BBC, Boeing has recently announced that it has abandoned Connexion, its in-flight broadband service. Said Boeing CEO Jim McNerney: 'Regrettably, the market for this service has not materialized as had been expected. We believe this decision best balances the long-term interests of all parties with a stake in Connexion by Boeing.'"
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Boeing Scraps In-flight Internet Access

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  • Not a problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 18, 2006 @04:46AM (#15933197)
    Seeing as we won't be able to take our laptops or other gadgets on board aircraft for much longer.
  • Well DUH (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abscissa (136568) on Friday August 18, 2006 @04:46AM (#15933198)
    If you can't bring your laptop on the flight, what did they expect!!? Psy Internet?.... Good going guys!! There is also no market for golf lessons on the flight either.
    • Re:Well DUH (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:36AM (#15933329)
      The restrictions on flights have been lifted, and have for days. Laptops along with everything else are perfectly fine.

      The only restriction is on drinks and liquids not purchased within the terminal.
      • Re:Well DUH (Score:5, Funny)

        by bangenge (514660) on Friday August 18, 2006 @07:28AM (#15933717)
        does that include dell laptops?
      • by Spacejock (727523)
        And in unrelated news, bottled water at airport terminals is now selling for a low $29.99 per bottle.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hey! (33014)
      If you can't bring your laptop on the flight, what did they expect!!?

      If this happens, then JetBlue will probably build a keyboard into the seat tray. Maybe you'd VPN into your corporate network.

      Enough ubiquitous Internet and terminal access and you end up with laptops and PDAs being obsolete.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MECC (8478)
        If this happens, then JetBlue will probably build a keyboard into the seat tray.

        Wow - that seems like a big investment to get people to flock to your airline. I'd think free booze might cost about the same, and people (everyone I know) would definetly fly such an airline. Plus, it would be easier to spot terrorists - they'd be the sober ones.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hey! (33014)
          hI'd think free booze might cost about the same, and people (everyone I know) would definetly fly such an airline.

          Ah, this harkens back to the days when "Jet Set" implied a sybaritic life of privilege and pleasure, not an endless grid of boarding and trying catch a few winks of sleep on red eyes. Back in the day before laptops, you took a book on a flight just in case your seatmate was a bore (if you were a bore that was his or hopefully, her problem).

          However, it is almost certainly not the case that free
          • by walt-sjc (145127)
            Booze remains one of the most expensive things that is routinely served. Just ask the casinos, who increasingly have sensors on booze bottles that wire the manager when the bartender is poring long shots.

            Sounds like a job for bar monkey [barmonkey.net].

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by saskboy (600063)
        New Air Canada seats have a TV and USB port in the back. They haven't "implemented" use of the USB ports yet, but I suspect they will be for keyboards with trackballs, for Internet/email access.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ctrl-Alt-Del (64339)
      It's not really practical to use a laptop on a plane, unless you're in business/first class; firstly due to the lack of space to actually get it out, and secondly, few airlines provide power to economy class seats.
  • where's the market (Score:4, Insightful)

    by annakin (994045) on Friday August 18, 2006 @04:48AM (#15933205)
    As evidenced by Sept. 11's Flight 93, cell phones work perfectly well at high altitudes. So as the broadband capability of these phones increases, it's obvious that dedicated services such as Connexion are targeting a redundant market.
    • by daranz (914716) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:10AM (#15933261)
      Cellphones don't work when you're over the middle of an ocean. Satellites, on the other hand, can. Plus, I suspect it's easier to use a satellite connection for live TV, than to try and and pipe it over a cellphone network.

      Besides, if you're flying over multiple countries, you need to get on several different cellphone networks, which means having to sign contracts with multiple providers if you wanna connect the entire plane, or having to worry about huge roaming charges. Not to mention cellphones don't work everywhere over land either, and in some regions, networks might be incapable of handling anything besides voice traffic.

      Connexion probably didn't take off (pun intended) because of the costs invovled. You could pay for a landline connection for a month with what you had to pay for an entire flight of Internet access
    • by canuck57 (662392) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:39AM (#15933335)

      ...cell phones work perfectly well at high altitudes..

      They do. It is a common misconception that the authorities want cell phones off in flight because of safety. The reason is simple, because the plane is travelling so fast, and the ground system is more or less designed for automobile speeds, the cell system hands off to the next cell very rapidly causing grief for the cell system owners.

      It likely will not work when over an unpopulated area, but near cities and main hiways it should. This isn't to say the connection will be stable, it likely will not be. 9/11 worked because they were in a populated area flying relatively low.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by houghi (78078)

        They do. It is a common misconception that the authorities want cell phones off in flight because of safety.

        Yet that is what is being told all the time by the airlines. The same lame excuse is often used in hospitals.
        http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11627970/ [msn.com]
        Quote: there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests battery-operated devices, [...] might disrupt critical aircraft navigation systems.

        OTOH I don't mind the ban of cellphones on an airplane. Can you imagine trying to sleep and having some 'businessman

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by andrewman327 (635952)
      If cell phones didn't work at high altitude, why would the FCC/FAA ban them? If people pulled them out and always saw zero signal they wouldn't be trying to make calls.
    • The problem with cell phones in a plane is two fold:
      - distance from tower
      - rate of movement of plane

      For the first point, because the cell phone is so far from the tower it is actually boosting its signal output to maximum. As for the second point, the plane is moving so fast that they phone is consistently trying to shift to different towers. The solutions for in flight phone usage, I believe, work on the basis of having an in-plane base-station and then the plane communicating
  • by haestan (996215) on Friday August 18, 2006 @04:54AM (#15933218)
    I'm not sure if the reason isn't because of security issues. Which public airline wants their passengers to use notebooks during the flight in the times of exploding battery packs and terrorist attacks. Now as there is no mainstream market their Connexion system they abandon it because it's too expensive to carry on just for a small market of private airline carriers.
    • by matt4077 (581118)
      Mod parent down, it's a stupid idea. Why should Boeing care about these issues? You can still use a notebook on a plane, and until that is outlawed, why should Boeing go further than the already-paranoid authorities and forfeit maybe considerable revenue? The truth is simply what they say: it wasn't making them any money.
  • pricing (Score:5, Informative)

    by pr0nbot (313417) on Friday August 18, 2006 @04:57AM (#15933227)
    Pricing seems to have been not unreasonable

    http://www.connexionbyboeing.com/index.cfm?p=cbb.p ricing&lang=en [connexionbyboeing.com]

    Internet Flight
    Get flat-rate access for your entire flight.

    $26.95 for entire flight, including connecting flights within 24 hours of signing in.*

    Internet Time
    Get 1, 2, or 3 hours of access. Internet Time begins when you sign in and counts down whether you are signed in or not.
    Access Price
    1 hour $9.95
    2 hours $14.95
    3 hours $17.95

    *Price shown in US dollars. No taxes or duties will be added. Prices are reduced during maintenance periods.
    • Re:pricing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by frisket (149522) <.ei.liramlis. .ta. .retep.> on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:06AM (#15933247) Homepage
      I think they were overoptimistic at that price. There isn't a "market" for this service: rightly or wrongly, people expect it to be free of charge, like a seat, or in-flight meals on long-haul.
      • Re:pricing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by interiot (50685) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:17AM (#15933280) Homepage
        I'm not so sure... Previously, the only way to communicate with anyone on a 14 hour flight was voice calls which are quite expensive as well. At least this way business travellers could get some extra work done, and not be completely out of touch with the world for a whole 14-hour period. Even hotels charge you for internet access (especially business-oriented ones).
        • by Svartalf (2997)
          Well, with the voice call service you could "connect" with it- if you had a phone in your plane. Just use the modem
          to dial into your ISP. Sure, it's not high-speed, but it did work at least half-assedly. Now, as for Connexion, I
          suspect that it was a nifty idea, but since 9/11 we're not flying anywhere near as much- not even businesses.

          Honestly, I would have shelled out for the service, but I'm the exception, not the norm. So, why carry forward an
          expensive service that won't at least break-even? In real
        • Even hotels charge you for internet access (especially business-oriented ones).

          Not true. I just travelled around California looking at colleges, and all of the hotels--from the Country Inns & Suites down to the crappy Days Inn that the Residence Inn by Marriott sent us to after they were "overbooked by central reservations" (read: three guests decided not to leave, and instead of kicking them out, they denied a few customers their reservations) had free wireless internet. (The first one, in Claremont

      • by hughk (248126)
        Maybe not in the back, but there definitely is in business and first class. I have used the connection for email and it worked quite nicely and have even browsed /. from 33K feet. The company took the cost without issue as it means some late breaking information could be sent to me in flight.

        For flights shorter than about 4-5hrs, I can't see it being useful but on intercontinental flights it is a true godsend.

      • Hmmm... is there a reason one customer couldn't get unlimited access, then set themselves up as an AP for the rest of the plane to use free of charge?
      • Reading through comments here brings one thing to light. It never ceases to amaze how many can declare something like this being so easy to do that it should be cheap or free.

        This is like the idiot manager who figures if he can write a word document about a process in a day it should not take that long for me to code it. After all, he had to add bullet points and color too.

        Combine "anything" with the word "airplane" and suddenly the complexity level goes up. Its like movies and water. There are so many
    • Re:pricing (Score:4, Informative)

      by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:21AM (#15933291) Homepage Journal
      Yeah... 27$ for a few hour flight is so ultra cheap.
      Considering that most people pay about that much at home for a MONTH of broadband
      I'd say pricing was a major sticking point and contributed in no small part to the demise of the service pilot.

      • Re:pricing (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Achromatic1978 (916097) <robert@@@chromablue...net> on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:52AM (#15933367)
        Most home broadband services are not capable of providing broadband internet access 33,000 ft above the Atlantic Ocean.

        And for a few hour flight, yeah, it does add up a bit. But when I fly from Melbourne to Glasgow, 9 hours to Hong Kong, 13 hours to London, and 90 minutes to Glasgow, it ends up costing about a dollar an hour.

      • Re:pricing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by morie (227571) on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:36AM (#15933509) Homepage
        Yeah... 27$ for a few hour flight is so ultra cheap.
        Considering that most people pay about that much at home for a MONTH of broadband


        And what about flight itself! It is so expensive! I can ride my bike for three hours almost for free, but for a flight I have to pay hundreds of euros. Why would anyone want that?
      • I do not think pricing was the issue. Let's face it - most people who are travelling on a commercial airline probably are prepared for some $100 or more in incidental fees as part of their journey, to cover overpriced airport food, cabs, tips, baggage carts, etc. I don't think an extra $30 for entertainment on the airplane would be an issue for most people.

        I believe lack of access was the issue. Most people don't have a notebook computer. If they had free wireless portable tablets they could hand out to
    • Re:pricing (Score:5, Informative)

      by VoiceOfSanity (716713) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:27AM (#15933302)
      Understand that Connexion was primarily used by long haul (read overseas) airlines. Companies such as Luftansa provided the service for use on many of their flights. The problem was that almost every US airline company did not want to provide the service, even on coast to coast flights. It was a very hard sell, considering that there was (and still is) a very hard push to get cellphone usage approved for use in flight. Why use a guaranteed connection through Connexion when you could simply fire up your wireless adapter from Sprint and hope that you can get a decent enough connection while flying over western Texas, or the Rockies?

      Cost certainly was another reason why it wasn't more widely used, but that excuse doesn't fly (pardon the pun) when you consider most corporate flyers are running on expense accounts, and certainly the cost of connecting up can be covered by those accounts. After all, go to Las Vegas and try to find a free wi-fi spot along the Strip, or stay in the hotel and use their Internet services. You'll pay $9.95 a day (or $49.95 a week) for access (and most places are through the television, not wireless). Yes, I know Las Vegas has a wi-fi grid being developed (such as the free access at the airport), but where the hotels are, they have worked hard to keep those free services from being available to the public.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DrXym (126579)
        Hmm, perhaps the US model is different so I'll refer to GSM. Most likely your plane would be kitted out with a picocell and jammers to ensure you didn't inadvertantly connect to another service. To use your phone, you'd have to "roam" through the picocell and then be raped at whatever phone rate they chose for you to make and receive calls. You'd probably be looking at least 1 euro a minute, and probably more. Other services like texting would also be high.

        On the plus side, your phone would be so close to

      • The airlines needed to spend hundreds of thousands per plane to install connexion, something financially strapped airlines wern't exactly clamoring to do.
    • Watching "Loose Change" while flying:

      ..priceless ;-)
    • Re:pricing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chaffar (670874) on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:14AM (#15933442)

      A more intelligent thing to do would be to add 5$ surcharge per ticket on business/first class tickets and then propose FREE UNLIMITED BROADBAND CONNECTION on flights. They're paying shitloads of money for those tickets anyway, so the surcharge would pass unnoticed, allowing the company to one-up other airlines in terms of service :)

      Oh yeah, I forgot 4- Profit !!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by westlake (615356)
        They're paying shitloads of money for those tickets anyway,

        The airlines aren't making shitloads of money these days and the infrastructure for sattelite broadband is expensive. It isn't difficult to imagine a more or less permanent ban on carry-on laptops on the northeast coriddor and North Atlantic runs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BenjyD (316700)
      By way of comparison, BT Openzone (UK wireless hotspot provider) charges £0.20/minute ($22/hr) for its pay as you go wireless connections in places like train stations etc. There are various voucher options, the equivalent to the "entire flight" option is around $20.

      So, compared to that, the prices aren't that bad.
    • by daw (7006) on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:17AM (#15933450)
      Those prices might be bearable if the service worked. The real problem was that it didn't. I used it on Lufthansa. It was the worst laggy modem-speed mess, totally unusable. If you're paying by the hour for something, it's pretty infuriating when it stops working completely for five minutes at a time.

      I suspect the real reason they weren't doing business was because of the performance, not the price.
      • by hughk (248126)
        So, it wasn't interactive enough for Deathmatch. It works perfectly fine for email though, even browsing websites seemed to go ok.
        • by daw (7006)
          Admittedly I was trying to do email using pine/ssh and it probably would have been more bearable if I had been using a caching IMAP client rather than an interactive shell one. But not all that much better I think. And no, browsing the web didn't work for me at all. As I said, the connection seemed to be going up and down for minutes at a time, and when it was routing at all it was really too slow to even load a webpage.
      • Worked just great for me all the times I've used it on various runs between Southeast Asia and Westen Europe.
  • I think the real reason for their canning this was that they couldn't find the market for charging $50 for 5 minutes of broadband time on the flights!

    You have to remember that anything in or around an airport costs as much as 2000 times its actual value. What made you think they wouldn't try this with broadband?
    • Hahaha. Yeah, that's the real reason. Of course if you'd read any of the associated documents, etc, you'd know that you could fly a 15 hour flight for $26 or so.
      • by Octorian (14086)
        Yeah, but good luck finding power for your laptop on the plane, or even in the terminal for that matter. I still remember a flight I took to Germany 2 years ago, where there were plenty of power sockets on the 56 minute flight to Atlanta, but nothing on the actual trans-atlantic flight.

        Heck, I ranted about all these various problems in my blog [blogspot.com] not too long ago. It basically comes down to everyone wanting to act like they support laptop users, but no one actually doing so in a convenient/usable way. (that
  • No! (Score:5, Funny)

    by The One and Only (691315) <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:19AM (#15933284) Homepage
    Who will I email for help when deadly snakes are released on my flight?
  • by ettlz (639203) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:37AM (#15933330) Journal
    Honestly, you'd think the editors would be wiser than to post this story on today of all days, when Snakes on a Plane goes on general release. (Slashdot story yet?!) Maybe they were concerned about security --- trying to avoid worms on a plane and all that.
  • by owlnation (858981) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:51AM (#15933364)
    Using a cell phone on a plane would be incredibly dangerous to your health.

    If you were sitting near me on a plane spouting corporate buzzwords or telling your hard of hearing relatives that "...yes! We're on the plane...", for hours on end, and if I have to hear the latest (and always truly inane and über-irritating) ring tone over and over, then trust me, you would be in terrible terrible terrible danger...
  • Hich costs (Score:3, Informative)

    by AndyCap (97274) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:56AM (#15933378)
    Of course, it does sound like the costs were out of control if they had 560 people working in what's a very small ISP.
  • Flight times (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:07AM (#15933416)

    Speaking personally, if i'm on a flight under 3 hours then by the time you've gone up, had a drink and got your food out of the way, you're getting ready to land again.

    Flights that are 4-5 hours, I usually watch the film, read the book or (if i'm really inclined to do some work) I'll fire up my laptop and work on something offline.

    Flights that are over 5 hours, I'll generally try and catch some sleep so that I'm refreshed when I get there.

    As such, there is only small chance that i'll even think about using a laptop and, even then, the requirement for internet is limited. It doesn't surprise me that this venture is not particually sucessful.

    • Flights that are over 5 hours, I'll generally try and catch some sleep so that I'm refreshed when I get there.

      You must not fly coach.

      Either that, or you're a better man than I. I can't sleep with my knee jammed into my ass and my testicles pressing against the back of my neck. ;)
    • by canuck57 (662392)

      ..As such, there is only small chance that i'll even think about using a laptop..

      I am much like you, I haven't used my laptop on the plane in over 10 years. I carry it as I don't trust the airline staff not to steal or break it. I wonder if the creators and sponsoring execs of the business venture with on Boeing got fired for not thinking and testing this through before spending that much? My guess is they just moved to another part of Boeing at the first sight of a problem. Now everyone at Boeing get

  • imagine that (Score:3, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:23AM (#15933475) Homepage Journal
    the market for this service has not materialized as had been expected.

    Translation: not nearly as many people are willing to get jacked for $35/hr for internet access as we had believed.

    Though on a completely different angle, at the rate things are going now, soon we won't be able to get on a plane with anything short of our underwear, and will have to fed-ex our luggage to our destination. What happened to the good 'ol days when the people were more scared of the public than the government was?
    • by stubear (130454)
      "What happened to the good 'ol days when the people were more scared of the public than the government was?"

      They went the way of the dodo when the psychoanalysts took over society. Next question.
    • FedEx it all (Score:5, Interesting)

      by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Friday August 18, 2006 @08:02AM (#15933887) Homepage Journal
      ...
      will have to fed-ex our luggage to our destination.

      Actually, I've been doing that for over a decade.

      I used to oversee nationial rollouts of systems, which meant I was on the road 95% of the time, often spending only a day or two in each site before moving on. I had enough to worry about without babysitting a suitcase which may or may not arrive on my flight, but was on the road long enough and in different enough climates every week that a roll-on wasn't sufficient.

      Enter FedEx.

      Every few weeks I'd pack up a load of freshly cleaned/laundered clothes and send them to my major destinations over the next month. Coats & thick socks to cold places, extra shirts & undershirts to hot ones, replacement underwear, etc. I'd put each cache in a cheap collapsable nylon duffel, then into the office for shipping to jobsites with strict instructions to hold for my arrival (there were usually a couple of other boxes full of gear)

      Sure I had to pop by a store every so often, but at least I wasn't inconveniently buying a couple of new dress shirts at top dollar every week, and these were already laundered, pressed, etc. Plus when you're from out of town finding a store that sells decent dress shirts or whatever, getting to it, etc. is just another hassle one can do without. My concerns were the job, finding my way back to tonight's hotel, getting fed decently, and getting to the airport; not haberdashery.

      Even if I'm paying I still often ship clothes ahead. It is a small expense compared to much of the trip, and frankly skipping the joy of dragging the suitcase to the airport, then the thrill of the lugguage carrousel at the other end (wheel... of... mangled... lugguage! Did mine arrive today or is it on it's way to Guam? Let's wait an hour surrounded by annoying people to find out!), makes it worth every penny. Check in to my hotel, have them send the box to my room, ahh, properly packed clothes, nothing crushed, all ready for wearing during my stay.

      Seriously, career advice? Show up every day looking neat & fresh when everyone else is rumpled and worn. Especially true with suits, they can only be worn so many days in a row before getting nasty, no matter how often they're sent out for overnight abuse at outragous rates by the hotel dryclean service. Shipping costs are just a sound investment then.

      • At least for international travel. It would cost $177 each way to ship just 20 lbs of clothes from here in Colorado to London via FedEx ($255 for 40 lbs of clothes). Were you just doing domestic travel?
        • by maggard (5579)
          Were you just doing domestic travel?

          My posting began with:

          I used to oversee national rollouts of systems
          so yes, national usually does mean domestic.
  • by Inode Jones (1598) on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:37AM (#15933514) Homepage
    The real reason? I couldn't use it very well even if I wanted to pay.

    Given how US airlines pack you in like sardines, I can't open up my notebook larger than 60 degrees. That's not enough to see the display properly. The last thing I'm gonna do in this configuration is connect to the Internet.
  • During my trips to/from Europe, from/to the US, I always enjoyed this service on Lufthansa's airplanes. I wish they could keep it available, alongside allowance for laptops.
  • Even though the new air travel rules say you can't bring computing equipment on board as carry-on, I'm certain they priced themselves right out of any chance of anyone buying the service. No one's going to pay $5/hour just to surf the 'Net.

    My own personal belief is that 'Net access should start to become like electricity, gas, water, and other utilities and just as ubiquitous and accessible. If I go to a hotel, it should be free access, wired or wireless. The hotels that want to rape you for $10 a day or
    • Electricity, Gas, water... internet? That's how I treat it... those are my utilities. I have to pay for them all. they're all just there when i turn it on, it's nothing different. just like Cable tv and the telephone. I have to pay more per month for gas than for internet, that being said, I don't expect cable tv and internet on a plane. and if they do they'll be extra. granted 10 bucks a day or more is a bit excessive. try $5 a day and that's reasonable. Internet isn't a required utility though li
  • by gelfling (6534) on Friday August 18, 2006 @07:22AM (#15933684) Homepage Journal
    Airlines love to advertise services like this or phones on planes when they first came out and then you discover that it's only slightly less expensive than a heroin habit. This is why airlines are winding down in flight phones - not because of cell phones or security but instead after the first few years of some yahoo calling "Woo Hoo guess what Cleetus I'm callin ya from tha plane!!!!!" the charm of a $40 phone call wears off.
    • Airlines love to advertise services like this or phones on planes when they first came out and then you discover that it's only slightly less expensive than a heroin habit. This is why airlines are winding down in flight phones - not because of cell phones or security but instead after the first few years of some yahoo calling "Woo Hoo guess what Cleetus I'm callin ya from tha plane!!!!!" the charm of a $40 phone call wears off.

      Yeah, BillyJoeBob was annoying, as is "I'M UP HIGH SO I MUST SHOUT" but as you

  • I found Connexion useful, reasonably priced and decently performing.
    I helped a customer out over Messenger while flying over the ocean.
    These days, a lot of an IT persons work involves frequent internet access, to send mails, check things on the web etc. It's worth paying a few dollars more on your thousand dollar flight in order to make that time productive.

    I guess they must have budgeted for domestic airlines using it though, and I guess they are not keen to do so :(

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