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FCC chairman kills plan to allow cell phone calls on US planes

The current chairman of the FCC has killed a proposal made in 2013 that would have allowed people to make cell phone calls on commercial airplanes.
April 10, 2017

A plan that was first proposed back in 2013 by the Federal Communications Commission that would have allowed commercial airline passengers the right to make voice calls on their cell phones during a flight is almost certainly dead. The current chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, announced his own proposal to scrap that plan in a brief press release.

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Calls on cell phones during flights have been banned since 1991, originally due to fears that such calls could interfere with ground-based relay stations. The FCC, under its then chairman Tom Wheeler, did announce in 2013 that people should be permitted to make calls on flights when the planes got above 10,000 feet. Wheeler claimed the current ban was obsolete because many planes now have their own cellular hardware that offer passengers in-flight entertainment. Wheeler said that while the ban would be lifted under his proposal, it would be up to individual airlines to decide whether or not to allow calls on their flights.

However, Wheeler’s plan was met with a large amount of resistance from pilots, airlines, flight assistants and others in the industry. It also didn’t go over well with the general public. The FCC said it received over 1,425 comments from citizens about the proposal, and most of them stated they were in favor of keeping the calling ban on planes in place.

Today, Pai stated that the original plan from the FCC was “ill-conceived” and was not in the public’s best interest. He concluded that today’s action to kill the plan was a victory for all US citizens who “value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.” Officially, his order to keep the ban must be approved by a vote of the FCC’s full board. However, as USA Today points out, both Pai and Michael O’Rielly, who cover two of those three spots on the board, already voted back in 2013 against collecting any comments about lifting the ban. Therefore, it’s all but assured the plan will not be going forward.

How do you feel about the ban on cell phone calls on flights in the US sticking around? Is it the right decision, or do you think the FCC chairman made the wrong call? Let us know your thoughts in the comments?