Debate Continues Over Cell Phone Use On Airplanes
UPDATE: An aviation consumer group says airline companies should be allowed to decide whether passengers can use their cell phones during a flight, but only if the technology is found "safe and secure."
The FCC banned inflight cell calls in 1991 and sparked outrage when it considered dropping the ban last year.
As one part of the federal government looks to remove restrictions on making phone calls from airplanes, another agency is apparently considering its own prohibition.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler told members of Congress that while his agency sees no technical reason to ban calls on planes, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told him Thursday morning that the DOT will be moving forward with its own restrictions.
Wheeler called his proposal to rescind the ban "the responsible thing to do." Calls have been prohibited for 22 years over fears that they would interfere with cellular networks on the ground. Technological advances had resolved those concerns.
"When the rationale for a rule doesn't exist, the rule shouldn't exist," Wheeler told members of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee during his 39th day in office.
Wheeler said he's called the CEOs of major airlines, telling them that the government isn't requiring them to allow calls. Ultimately, the decision will rest with individual airlines.
"I understand the consternation caused by the thought of your onboard seatmate disturbing the flight making phone calls. I do not want the person in the seat next to me yapping at 35,000 feet any more than anyone else," Wheeler said. "But we are not the Federal Courtesy Commission."
The DOT, which includes the Federal Aviation Administration, wasn't immediately available for comment.