FCC in talks to allow in-flight phone use


Eavesdropping might become the new norm for airplane passengers. The Federal Communications Commission will be voting on a proposal to allow cellphone users to talk and text on airplanes while in flight.

Passengers would be allowed to use their cellphones and other mobile devices once the plane reaches 10,000 feet. Mobile devices would still need to be turned off during take off and landing.

Needless to say, there are some who view the potential change as an inconvenience rather than an accommodation.

“Airplanes are already crowded and uncomfortable. Add to that people yapping on their phones; I think flying would become unbearable,” Clint Wilson, K-State agricultural technician, said.

Safety precautions are what have prevented in-flight cellphone use from being proposed sooner.

“I do know that it’s a rule on the flight to not have your phone on, and usually rules are made for safety precautions,” Allie Blythe, junior in hotel restaurant management, said. “I would definitely feel more safe and comfortable with no one on the phone.”

The current FCC rules on mobile device usage were implemented 20 years ago when there was no technology savvy enough to prevent plane radio frequencies from interfering with cellphone networks on the ground.

“The reason [the FCC] has gotten to this point on the removal of the restrictions has been based on the outcry of the public,” Peter Van Kuren, Manhattan airport director, said. “I can imagine that the flight attendants don’t like to be the cops in the sky, trying to enforce the rules. They also had to spend a lot of time testing for safety and checking for any interference it may have on the aircraft.”

The FCC is working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration on safety issues involved with the proposal. According to a study conducted by the FAA, the allowance of in flight mobile device usage has been implemented in other countries, and there was no evidence that it affected the aircraft negatively.

According the FCC website, the public is encouraged to comment on the proposal. If the proposal passes, each airline will be able to determine whether or not they will permit the use of mobile devices in flight.

If an airline does choose to allow passengers to use mobile devices, then an Airborne Access System will be installed to safely manage the different connections.

The FCC will review the issue at their Dec. 12 meeting and ask the public for comments before making any final decisions. Concerned parties can call or text the FCC with any comments, questions or concerns at 1-888-225-5322 for voice messages and 1-888-835-5322 for texts.