[Avionics Today Feb. 18, 2014] U.S. transportation officials are considering a ban on in-flight cell phone calls, as lawmakers consider a bill that would do just that. The Department of Transportation (DOT) also announced it is seeking public comment on whether it should propose a rule to ban cell phone communications on flights within, to and from the United States.
The House committee on transportation and infrastructure last week approved a bill with no opposition that would prohibit the in-flight use of cell phones for voice communications on commercial airline flights. Now the measure is up for consideration by the full House and a similar bill is currently moving through the Senate.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who sponsored the bill, says that he feels the aircraft cabin environment forces passengers unwillingly to listen to calls made by others. Shuster believes it necessary to ban in-flight calling so noisy conversations do not impinge on the comfort of travelers.
“Airplane cabins are by nature noisy, crowded and confined. In our day-to-day lives, when we find someone’s cell phone call to be too loud, too close, or too personal, we can just walk away. But at 30,000 feet, there’s nowhere else for an airline passenger to go," said Shuster.
In-flight cell phone use has been prohibited since 1991 due to concerns about harmful interference to wireless networks on the ground. However modern aircraft feature onboard avionics systems that can safely expand the use of in-flight calling by airline passengers.
In December, the Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to consider a proposal to allow in-flight calling, which would allow airlines to make the decision for themselves. If that proposal were adopted, it would revise the FCC's prohibition of cell phone service on commercial aircraft.
A December Quinnipiac University poll showed 59 percent of Americans stating they do not allow the use of cell phones for voice communications, while 30 percent were in favor of lifting the ban.
DOT is allowing 30 days for the public to submit comments on whether the agency should propose its own rule to ban voice communications on mobile devices.
“DOT is committed to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to express his or her opinion when it comes to this important issue, and this Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will give stakeholders and the public significant opportunity to share their comments,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.