FCC in-flight call plan meets political and public opposition

11 DEC 2013

Members of the US Congress and the public opposed plans by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enable plane passengers to make phone calls during flights, Bloomberg reported.

Legislation to prohibit passengers from making voice calls on flights was introduced on Monday by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster.

There has also been consistent opposition to in-flight calls from US air travellers.

Restrictions on use of electronic devices over Wi-Fi connections were lifted in the US on 31 October. However, according to Bloomberg, airlines Delta, United and US Airways told Wi-Fi service provider Gogo to block internet-enabled voice calls to avoid annoying other passengers.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) found 69 per cent of people who commented on a filing in 2012 said in-flight calls should not be allowed. In addition, US airline Delta told the FAA that 64 per cent of its passengers opposed the move.

Another potential issue cited by an advisory group of the FAA is that airline crews could be distracted from their duties by having to deal with conflicts between passengers about mobile use.

However, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler does not appear to be deterred by the opposition. In an interview at the beginning of December he said it should be something that airlines take a decision on rather than dictated by “an outdated, unnecessary technological rule”.

FCC commissioners are due to attend a hearing in Congress this week where voice calls on flights will be a “spirited topic of discussion”, the leader of the hearing told Bloomberg.

A preliminary FCC vote will be taken on the issue to open a period of consultation, with a second vote needed to end the ban on in-flight calls.

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Tim Ferguson

Tim joined Mobile World Live in August 2011 and works across all channels, with a particular focus on apps. He came to the GSMA with five years of tech journalism experience, having started his career as a reporter... More

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