Department of Transportation Plans Ban on In-flight Phone Calls

By Paul Riegler on 13 December 2013
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Aircraft at JFK on Wednesday

Aircraft at JFK on Wednesday

Following a Federal Communications Commission vote that could lead to overturning a 22-year-old rule preventing the use of mobile phones in flight, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it is considering a ban on in-flight calling.

The Department of Transportation’s rule would take precedence.

The FCC voted 3 to 2 to initiate a review of the current rules for the use of mobile phones onboard aircraft.  It said that, under the proposed rules, an airline could equip its planes with “specialized equipment that would prevent harmful interference with wireless networks on the ground,” and that it did not see any technical reasons why the ban could not be lifted.

The rule prohibiting the use of mobile phones dates back to 1991 and is due to concerns about the devices in the air causing interference with cellular towers.  The commission pointed out that new technology exists that can prevent such interference and also provide voice services to passengers.

A recent poll conducted by Frequent Business Traveler in partnership with FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community, found that 90% of frequent travelers are vehemently against the use of phones for voice calls during flights.

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said Thursday that his department has heard from airlines, frequent flyers, crew members, and legislators who are  “all troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cellphones in flight – and I am concerned about this possibility as well.”  It is the department’s role, he said, to determine if a change in the rule would be “fair to consumers.”

On Monday, a member of the US House of Representatives introduced a bill to ban the use of mobile phones to make calls during a flight.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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