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Talking about (but not on) cell phones

15 Dec, 2013

It’s looking as if the anti-cell-phones-on-airplanes forces are in ascendancy – for the moment. But a definitive ruling may take time.

According to The New York Times, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler and the commission “were surprised last month by the flood of phone calls and emails expressing anger at the possibility that cellphone conversations would be allowed on flights.” A Quinnipiac University poll found that twice as many Americans wanted to keep the cell phone in flight ban in place, compared to those who wanted open cabin calling.

The FCC has voted in a 3-2 split decision to open the issue to public comment, even as U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is considering banning calls. “We believe USDOT’s role,” Foxx told Politico, “as part of our Aviation Consumer Protection Authority, is to determine if allowing these calls is fair to consumers. USDOT will now begin a process that will look at the possibility of banning these in-flight calls.”

The Federal Aviation Agency recently allowed tablets and e-readers to remain on during takeoff and landings.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) applauded the DOT action and criticized the FCC for opening the issue: “Flight Attendants and the travelling public have been vocal in our opposition to the FCC allowing in-flight voice calls. AFA looks forward to participating in this process and keeping the cabin a calm and safe environment.”

Nevertheless, the consensus seems to be that U.S. passengers may be able to text, email and access the Web – just not talk during flights. But this is all still in flux.

At the same time, though, the FCC reached an agreement with wireless carriers to permit consumers to unlock their cell phones at the end of their contracts. According to Reuters, “The final sticking points in reaching the agreement among carriers and FCC were said to include questions on how fast the new policy would be rolled out, how pre-paid phones would be handled and how to keep unlocked phones off of black markets.”

Speed Matters supports the Flight Attendants in seeking safe and tranquil airplanes.

U.S. Agencies Dance Around Cellphone Use Aloft (NY Times, Dec. 13, 2013)

Anthony Foxx: DOT will consider banning cell phone calls on planes (Politico, Dec. 12, 2013)

Flight Attendant Union Applauds DOT Efforts to Ban In-flight Voice Calls
(Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Dec. 12, 2013)

Wireless carriers, FCC agree on 'unlocking' cellphones (Reuters, Dec. 12, 2013)

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