FCC should disconnect plan to allow cellphone calls on airplanes

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The Federal Communications Commission has started loosening rules on what electronic devices can be used during commercial airline flights. That’s a welcome move.

Letting people check their email or look at websites will improve the flying experience for some people.

But a new FCC proposal to allow passengers to use their smartphones and cellphones to make calls is a horrible idea.

The objection has nothing to do with airline safety. It is becoming increasingly clear that the use of electronic devices on planes is not a serious safety concern. Originally there was a concern signals could interfere with some of the plane’s high-tech equipment.

Having a plane full of people jabbering away on their cellphones would make flying a very unpleasant experience for those forced to listen to the chatter around them, especially as everyone talks louder and louder to be heard.

The FAA proposal, which is backed by the agency’s new chairman, will be discussed at the Commission’s December meeting.

It could be a heated meeting. Initial reaction from the public is in line with our concern.

In the hours after the plan was made public Thursday, the FCC was flooded with angry protests.

According to The Washington Post, one FCC commissioner received hundreds of emails complaining it would result in unbearable noise pollution. Other emails noted passengers are already crammed into smaller seats and tighter rows, and being forced to listen to calls would be yet another indignity.

A petition to the White House opposing the plan was even put online.

“This would make an already cranky, uncomfortable travel experience exponentially worse, and as a frequent flier and concerned citizen, I think the administration needs to nip this in the bud,” a resident from Richmond, Va., wrote.

All great arguments against unlimited cellphone use in airplanes.

People really don’t like hearing other people’s conversations, particularly when trying to relax or enjoy a meal. This is why many restaurants ban cellphone use in their dinning rooms.

In looking at changing the rules on electronic devices, the FCC must consider common courtesy as well as technology.

Comments

KCarlin 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Regarding the FCC and cellphones on commercial aircraft, there seems to be a misunderstanding of the purpose of the Federal Communications Commission. It is not the Federal Convenience Commission. It creates rules that regulate the use of the electromagnetic spectrum so that all types of radiating devices, from the tiniest to the largest, operate, to the greatest extent possible, on a non-interference basis. This is a technical realm, and any actions beyond that, in my opinion, would be entirely inappropriate.

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