Woman Using Cellphone on a Plane

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FCC plans to keep people from using their phones on planes

Put that phone back in airplane mode.


Andrew Couts


Just weeks after supporting a plan to strip key privacy protections for internet users, the Federal Communications Commission set its sights on a new target: in-flight cellphone calls.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday announced plans to scrap a December 2013 effort by the commission that would have allowed airline passengers to make phone calls when the aircraft reaches altitudes of 10,000 feet or greater.

Pai, a Republican who voted against the rule change as a commissioner under the Obama administration, characterized the move as a positive move for passengers and airline employees alike.

“I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes,” Pai said in a statement emailed to the Daily Dot. “I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest. 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.”

When the U.S. Department of Transportation accepted public comment on a proposal to allow in-flight cellphone calls—it did so in response to the FCC’s proposed rule change—nearly all of the 7,000 submitted comments opposed the idea, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The FCC first banned cellphone usage on commercial flights in 1991 over concerns that use of the wireless devices would interfere with plane communications. However, in the decades since, those concerns have subsided. The FCC’s rule change would have given airlines the option to allow in-flight cellphone use, but each airline would have be permitted to decide its own policies.

The FCC’s three commissioners must vote on Pai’s proposal to keep cellphone usage on planes against federal rules. However, both Pai and fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly opposed the rule change when the commission first voted on them in 2013, meaning Pai’s proposal is expected to pass.

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