FCC Chairman Junks Proposal To Allow In-Flight Voice Calls Using Mobile Phones


Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai decided to reverse the proposal of his predecessor to allow travelers to use their mobile phones while in flight.

The proposal, introduced by then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, looked to take down the long-standing regulation that was introduced back in 1991.

Should Mobile Phones Still Be Banned In Flights?

The reason behind the prohibition against making in-flight phone calls was due to the possibility that the cellular signals will interfere with pilot radios and wireless networks on the ground.

Nearly three decades later, technology has advanced enough to eliminate such a risk. This is the reason behind Wheeler's proposal of finally allowing passengers to use their mobile phones while in flight by opening them once the aircraft reaches cruising altitude. The proposal would have still required passengers to switch their mobile phones off or into airplane mode while the aircraft is taking off or landing.

However, new technology has not changed the fact that passengers who engross themselves in phone calls over a flight could be seen as annoying to other passengers.

Pai Junks Wheeler's Proposal

Pai, who described Wheeler's proposal as "ill-conceived," said that he believed it was not in the public interest for the notion to go through.

"Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet," said Pai, focusing not on the possibility of the proposal but rather on its effects on aircraft passengers.

The proposal of Wheeler initially received much public backlash, mostly from trade groups that represent pilots and flight attendants. Many of the proposal's critics claimed that removing the ban would lead to passengers being disturbed by noisy conversations. The criticism forced Wheeler to set aside his proposal until his term ended.

"The FCC is making the right decision not to pursue lifting the ban on in-flight calls," said labor union spokesman Taylor Garland, who reiterated that travelers and the crew members of aircraft do not want voice calls allowed in flights.

If the proposal of Wheeler was approved, individual airlines would decide on how and when to install equipment in aircraft to support in-flight service. Most consumers could find it hard to acquire a cellular signal thousands of feet in the air, but recent advancements in technology have made it much easier to get connectivity to previously inaccessible areas such as airplanes.

FCC Stands Up For The Public

The decision by the FCC and Pai to shut down the proposal shows the commission standing up for public interests, as allowing phone calls would have been another problem that travelers had to face when going on a flight.

The other news involving the FCC, however, are largely more controversial. Late last month, Congress voted to repeal the internet privacy rules passed by the FCC, allowing internet service providers to sell data without the permission of involved users. President Donald Trump signed the resolution a few days later.

Pai, meanwhile, is looking to revoke the net neutrality rules put into place by the Obama administration, with the goal of taking them down by the end of April.

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