Published: Tue, April 11, 2017
Science | By Boyd Webster

U.S. regulator reverses course on in-flight calling

U.S. regulator reverses course on in-flight calling

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement he was proposing the FCC end a 2013 plan that sought to relax rules on mobile communications on planes. "I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest", Pai said. It would be a 'victory, ' in his words, for those who 'value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet'.

Then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated a proposal to lift the in-flight calling ban in November 2013, saying that "modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules". Under the FCC proposal, airlines would have decided if they allowed mobile phone conversations during flights. Other government officials and lawmakers proposed additional bans that would have prevented in-flight calls even if the FCC ban was eliminated.

A 2012 study conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration collected data from 11 countries and found "civil aviation authorities reported no confirmed occurrences of cell phones affecting flight safety on aircraft with on-board cellular telephone base stations".

Many passengers dread the idea of a seat mate yakking away on a conference call during a five-hour flight, and remain more than willing to forgo the convenience of making in-air calls.

Still, the 2013 initiative sparked protests from groups representing flight attendants, and members of Congress who objected to allowing voice calls on flights. 63 percent of people supported the ability to send and receive texts while in flight, while just 21 percent outright opposed it.

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