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DiFi wants to ban cell-phone calls on planes

By Josh Richman
Thursday, December 12th, 2013 at 5:51 pm in Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate.

Even as the Federal Communications Commission considered a possible rule change today to allow cell phone conversations on commercial airline flights, one of California’s Senators helped introduce a bipartisan bill to prohibit it.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., introduced the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act.

“Flying on a commercial airline — in a confined space, often for many hours — is a unique travel experience that is, candidly, not conducive to numerous passengers talking on cellphones,” Feinstein said. “This bill recognizes the use of cellphones to make calls during flights can be disruptive and irritating to other passengers and would prevent such communications during domestic flights. The bill, however, would not affect the ability to communicate via text and email during a flight.”

Alexander spoke more plainly (planely?), saying the bill “is about avoiding something nobody wants: nearly 2 million passengers a day, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts.”

Perhaps air passengers who still want their daily dose of yapping can watch C-SPAN.

As Feinstein said, the bill would prohibit voice communications through cell phones but not texting or other electronic communications, should the FCC approve them. It would also continue to allow use of personal electronic devices such as Kindles and iPads during flight, which the Federal Aviation Administration recently approved.

The bill applies only to commercial airlines, not private charter flights or foreign carriers unless the latter is flying between U.S. airports, and it exempts federal air marshals and flight crews for official business.

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  • JohnW

    People have criticized the FCC for giving the green light to cell phone use on planes. They have pointed out that Tom Wheeler, the new FCC chairman, was once head of the cell phone industry trade association. But that’s got nothing to do with the decision. The FCC’s job is to decide the matter on purely technical grounds — i.e., is there any technical reason, such as radio interference, to prohibit cell phone use. There isn’t. It’s the job of the FAA and Congress to decide whether or not it’s a good idea, which it isn’t.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    For once, I agree with Honest John