Good or bad idea? FCC weighs permitting cell calls on planes - FOX 35 News Orlando

Good or bad idea? FCC weighs permitting cellphone calls on planes

Posted: Updated:
Cellphone calls on planes? Alan Lee says, "that's the worst idea in years!." Cellphone calls on planes? Alan Lee says, "that's the worst idea in years!."

WASHINGTON (AP) - Rules against making cellphone calls during airline flights are "outdated," and it's time to change them, federal regulators said Thursday, drawing immediate howls of protest from flight attendants, airline officials and others.

Tom Wheeler, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said in a statement that the commission was proposing greater in-flight access to mobile broadband. The proposal will be considered at the commission's Dec. 12 meeting.

"The time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules," Wheeler said, adding that modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably.

The proposal would also allow passengers to use their smartphones to send email, text and download data. The proposal would apply to flights when they are over 10,000 feet in altitude, but not during takeoffs and landings.

The move came just 16 days after Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cellular telephone industry, took over the post of FCC chairman. The proposal to ease cellphone restrictions was greeted enthusiastically by the Telecommunications Industry Association and the Consumer Electronics Association.

Grant Seiffert, president of the telecommunications trade group, said his members see airline passengers as a new market opportunity.

But the electronics association acknowledged, "Engaging in phone conversations in flight may prove technically feasible, but many may find it socially undesirable." The association said it would be willing to work with the airline industry on promoting telephone etiquette on planes.

Reaction from the airline industry and labor unions was skeptical. Flight attendants and others have worried that a plane full of chattering passengers could lead to arguments and undermine safety.

"Passengers overwhelmingly reject cellphone use in the aircraft cabin. The FCC should not proceed with this proposal," the Association of Flight Attendants said in a statement in response to the FCC chairman's comments.

"In far too many operational scenarios, passengers making phone calls could extend beyond a mere nuisance, creating negative effects on aviation safety and security that are great and far too risky," the flight attendants group said.

"Our customer feedback indicates people may not want that policy, but of course tastes and desires change," JetBlue spokesman Morgan Johnston said in an email. "We would prioritize making the cabin comfortable and welcoming for all - for those who want cell service and for those who like peace and quiet."

Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel analyst with Hudson Crossing, said, "There are bad ideas, and then there's this."

"Unlike the ability to use their personal electronics and Wi-Fi from gate to gate, passengers don't want this," he added. "The constant chatter of passengers on their mobile phones has the potential to further increase tension among already stressed-out passengers. It will be a catalyst for increased cases of 'air rage.'"

Airline pilot and blogger Patrick Smith said permitting phone calls on planes "introduces yet another stress factor into an already stressful environment."

"Airports already are such loud places," he said. "It's the airplane itself, ironically, that is often the most quiet and peaceful part of the air travel experience. Is that about to change?"

Should the FCC lift its restrictions on cellphone use, airlines would still have the option of deciding whether to equip planes with picocells - small, satellite base stations - to handle calls. American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said the airline will wait to see what the FCC does. "However, our Wi-Fi at this time doesn't allow voice calls."

In October, the Federal Aviation Administration lifted restrictions on the use of most personal electronic devices during takeoffs and landings, but not cellphone calls, which fall under the FCC. The FAA long had barred the use of electronic devices below 10,000 feet because of concern they could cause electronic interference with aircraft systems during landings, the phase of flight when accidents are most likely to occur.

The FAA based its decision to ease the restrictions based on recommendations from an industry advisory group, which said use of tablets, music players and other devices doesn't cause dangerous interference on modern airliners. Passengers are supposed to put the devices on "airplane mode." The same advisory group also recommended that the FCC review its restrictions on phone calls.

The FCC proposal is primarily a response to the advisory group's recommendation, an FCC spokesman said.

If the agency decides to move ahead with the proposal, it would be just the first step in a long rulemaking process that includes soliciting public comment. Also, the FAA, which regulates equipment airlines add to their planes, would probably have a say on whether plane should be retrofitted with picocells, the spokesman said.

___

Mayerowitz reported from New York. AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.

___

Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Do you think cellphone calls should be permitted on planes?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Yes
    11%
    24 votes
    No
    89%
    188 votes
  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • 24-year-old women is $66 million jackpot winner

    24-year-old women is $66 million jackpot winner

    Thursday, July 31 2014 11:26 AM EDT2014-07-31 15:26:09 GMT
    The Michigan Lottery says a Port Huron woman is the winner of a $66 million Mega Millions jackpot that was drawn in mid-June.Kelsey Zachow says in a statement that she "could barely breathe" when she learned she was the winner.
    The Michigan Lottery says a Port Huron woman is the winner of a $66 million Mega Millions jackpot that was drawn in mid-June.Kelsey Zachow says in a statement that she "could barely breathe" when she learned she was the winner.
  • Winner of $66 Million Mega Millions Jackpot to be Announced

    Winner of $66 Million Mega Millions Jackpot to be Announced

    Thursday, July 31 2014 10:31 AM EDT2014-07-31 14:31:30 GMT
    Michigan Lottery news conference to announce the winner of the $66 million Mega Millions jackpot from Friday, June 13, 2014.
    Michigan Lottery news conference to announce the winner of the $66 million Mega Millions jackpot from Friday, June 13, 2014.
  • City of Detroit posts improvement updates online

    City of Detroit posts improvement updates online

    Thursday, July 31 2014 7:18 AM EDT2014-07-31 11:18:29 GMT
    Residents will be able to view the number of new streetlights installed in their Detroit neighborhood, how many lots were mown and the number of vacant houses demolished by going to the city's website.
    Residents will be able to view the number of new streetlights installed in their Detroit neighborhood, how many lots were mown and the number of vacant houses demolished by going to the city's website.
  • Download the FOX 2 Apps


  • FOX 2 News Five-Day Forecast
  • What's HotMore>>

  • Unsecured axe flies off truck and into windshield of car

    Unsecured axe flies off truck and into windshield of car

    An "ax-cident" on Route 95 in Topsfield left the passenger of one car shaken up but uninjured after an ax dislodged from a dump truck, striking the windshield of the car behind it.
    An "ax-cident" on Route 95 in Topsfield left the passenger of one car shaken up but uninjured after an ax dislodged from a dump truck, striking the windshield of the car behind it.
  • How honest are we, Detroit?

    How honest are we, Detroit?

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 7:45 PM EDT2014-07-30 23:45:12 GMT
    A national social experiment took place in Detroit Wednesday and the results will show just how honest we really are.
    A national social experiment took place in Detroit Wednesday and the results will show just how honest we really are.
  • VIDEO: 5-Year Old Girl Does Not Want Her Brother To Grow Up

    VIDEO: 5-Year Old Girl Does Not Want Her Brother To Grow Up

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 2:52 PM EDT2014-07-30 18:52:16 GMT
    In a video getting a lot of attention this morning on YouTube, a 5-year old girl named Sadie has learned that her little brother will one day grow up and she's not too happy about it!
    In a video getting a lot of attention this morning on YouTube, a 5-year old girl named Sadie has learned that her little brother will one day grow up and she's not too happy about it!
Powered by WorldNow

35 Skyline Drive
Lake Mary, FL 32746

Phone: (407) 644-3535
News Tips: (866) 55-FOX35

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices