FCC Comes Under Fire for Proposal to Allow In-Flight Cell Phone Use
Can you imagine the nightmare? You're stuck circling an airport waiting to land for an hour and your seatmate is engaged in a necessarily loud and obnoxious conversation. There's no escape because you're in a steel tube, hurtling through the skies at 550 MPH.
Please, FCC -- make it stop.
While many airline passengers like being able to listen to music or play games on their devices, the idea of being stuck on a plane for hours next to someone carrying on an obnoxious conversation has prompted a dramatic backlash.
One FCC commissioner received hundreds of outraged emails within hours of the announcement, an aide said.
“Playing ‘Words with Friends’ is different than passengers having lengthy, loud ‘conversations with friends’ while in the tight, inescapable confines of an airline passenger cabin," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said the issue will "surely be a spirited topic of discussion" at next month's oversight hearing of the FCC, which is expected to feature testimony from all five FCC commissioners.
"Like most Americans, when I heard the news that the FCC was considering allowing cell phone calls on commercial flights, I was concerned to say the least," Walden said.
The union for flight attendants also bashed the proposal.
"Flight Attendants, as first responders and the last line of defense in our nation’s aviation system, understand the importance of maintaining a calm cabin environment. Any situation that is loud, divisive, and possibly disruptive is not only unwelcome but also unsafe," the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in a statement.
The aide to the FCC commissioner said the backlash appears to have taken the chairman's office by surprise.
Wheeler has only been on the job for a few weeks, and it seems unlikely that he was looking to pick a political fight over cellphone use on planes.
"I am sure that everyone expected this to be a feel-good, let's make airline consumers happy, type of an inquiry," a former FCC official said. "I don't think anyone was prepared for it to become such a hot news story."
The former official argued that the FCC should have put more emphasis in its initial announcement on mobile Internet access, instead of allowing the media and the public to focus on the possibility of phone calls.
Call me a curmudgeon, but people with their cell phone glued to their ear -- and kids who can't stop texting long enough to pay the damn clerk and keep the line moving -- are the rot eating away at Western civilization. To burden my peace and quiet on an airplane by allowing these barbarians to invade my space with their useless and unnecessary phone calls is a travesty. Those flight attendants are talking about people like me who would very likely reach a breaking point, grab the phone out of the idiot's hand, and then toss the device out of the window I've just broken with the caller's head.
Let's nip this idea in the bud and keep the skies friendly -- and relatively quiet.