The Federal Communications Commission has initiated a proceeding to consider a proposal to allow airlines to install onboard avionics systems that could safely expand the use of in-flight voice communications by airline passengers, the agency said Thursday Dec. 12.
Under the proposed rule, airlines would have the ability to enable "in-flight wireless broadband access to passengers," FCC said in a statement. The agency is now seeking public comments to review the rules.
"If an airline chooses to equip its aircraft with specialized onboard equipment that
would prevent harmful interference with wireless networks on the ground, the airline would have the ability to enable in-flight wireless broadband access to passengers," FCC said.
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 systems that can prevent interference with wireless networks on the ground.
The FCC said it expects global mobile data traffic to increase "thirteen fold by 2017."
Also on Thursday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx released a statement indicating his agency will seek to ban the in-flight use of cell phones.
"We believe USDOT’s role, as part of our Aviation Consumer Protection Authority, is to determine if allowing these calls is fair to consumers. USDOT will now begin a process that will look at the possibility of banning these in-flight calls," said Foxx.