April 3, 2007 1:21 PM PDT

FCC: In-flight cell phone ban to continue

In-flight cell phone chatter won't be permitted anytime soon, per a decision by federal regulators.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday issued a brief order revealing that it plans to drop an ongoing inquiry into relaxing a prohibition dating back to 1991 on cell phone use in airborne aircraft. (PDF: the FCC's memorandum regarding cell phone use on planes.)

The regulators said it was "premature" to decide the issue because they had not received enough technical information from commenters to determine whether portable electronic devices would interfere with aircraft operations.

"We may, however, reconsider this issue in the future if appropriate technical data is available for our review," the order said.

Wi-Fi on planes, however, is another story. A spokesman for AirCell, the Colorado firm that received an FCC license last year enabling it to set up hot spots on aircraft, confirmed Tuesday that the company still plans to begin offering its exclusive service to passengers by early 2008.

The cell phone decision was not unexpected. According to published reports, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said late last month that he planned to recommend terminating the proceeding.

A federal advisory committee, at the request of the Federal Aviation Administration, is currently finishing up its own study on broader use of emerging telephone technologies on aircraft on its own and expects to issue recommendations later this year.

After opening the issue for several months of public comment in December 2004, the FCC amassed nearly 8,000 comments, many from individual citizens who balked at the idea of allowing fellow passengers to indulge in cell phone chatter in the close quarters of airline seating.

A large number of the letters relied on lines suggested by the Association of Flight Attendants union: "The introduction of cell phone use in the cabin will not only increase tension among passengers, it will compromise flight attendants' ability to maintain order in an emergency. Cell phone use could also enable terrorists to coordinate a plan of action more effectively."

CTIA-The Wireless Association, which represents cell phone carriers, applauded the FCC's move. Spokesman Joseph Farren said the organization maintains that "in-flight calling produces an unacceptable level of interference with the terrestrial network."

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So with hotspots, I suppose VOIP is still a possibility? As one who
does not relish sitting next to a phone conversation for an
extended period of time, I have to ask in jest if it is legal to jam a
WiFi signal!
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It is illegal to jam cellphone and WiFi signals.
Posted by PzkwVIb (462 comments )
Link Flag
There are many reasons not to allow cell phone use, as mentioned. I agree with all of them.
Posted by robbtuck (132 comments )
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flight 93
imagine if they had followed the rules.
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
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It Too Noisy Already
The cabin is already too noisy, even with cell phone usage. I always wear earplugs and headphones during the trip. Cabin seating should be segregated into "talkers" and "non-talkers". Only sign language or wrting on whiteboards would be allowed in the "non-talkers" section.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
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I don't care their reasons for continuing the ban, but I'm also suspecting it might have to do with the high number of inflight cell phone rage incidents that would occur. I really have no desire to listen to Bob yelling on an 11 hour flight to his cousin in Idaho, informing him as to what he's flying over now . "Nope, it's still ocean."
Posted by mwyner (6 comments )
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Most of the time they think it is a FAA measure banning cell use.
Suprised me they had it correct. The primary reason the FCC wrote
it was you jump from zone to zone too quick you jam the towers.
Not to mention at 320 or so for elevation, it's quite a distance to
the tower on the ground. Your signal is in the 800's for frequency,
so it does not cauase problems with the bands alloted to aircrafts.
Posted by Travis Ernst (170 comments )
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Fine but do they have to lie
The say they dont have enough info about interference with aircraft systems, but that is crap. If you want to ban it for other reasons, fine. But tell the truth. Of course the FCC is in the current administrations pocket and the current administration seems to be constitutionally unable to tell the truth.
Posted by PzkwVIb (462 comments )
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Shouldn't we eliminate all in-flight calls, not just cell phones? Listening to a guy on a $3/min airphone is just as annoying as listening to a guy on a free cell phone. I guess it is about the money.
Posted by idiotmanchild (1 comment )
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