clear
Saturday February 6th, 2016 4:14AM

Gov't weighs permitting cellphone calls on planes

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rules against making cellphone calls during airline flights are "outdated," and it's time to change them, federal regulators said Thursday, drawing immediate howls of protest from flight attendants, airline officials and others.

Tom Wheeler, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said in a statement that the commission was proposing greater in-flight access to mobile broadband. The proposal will be considered at the commission's Dec. 12 meeting.

"The time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules," Wheeler said, adding that modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably.

The proposal would also allow passengers to use their smartphones to send email, text and download data. The proposal would apply to flights when they are over 10,000 feet in altitude, but not during takeoffs and landings.

The move came just 16 days after Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cellular telephone industry, took over the post of FCC chairman. The proposal to ease cellphone restrictions was greeted enthusiastically by the Telecommunications Industry Association and the Consumer Electronics Association.

Grant Seiffert, president of the telecommunications trade group, said his members see airline passengers as a new market opportunity.

But the electronics association acknowledged, "Engaging in phone conversations in flight may prove technically feasible, but many may find it socially undesirable." The association said it would be willing to work with the airline industry on promoting telephone etiquette on planes.

Reaction from the airline industry and labor unions was skeptical. Flight attendants and others have worried that a plane full of chattering passengers could lead to arguments and undermine safety.

"Passengers overwhelmingly reject cellphone use in the aircraft cabin. The FCC should not proceed with this proposal," the Association of Flight Attendants said in a statement in response to the FCC chairman's comments.

"In far too many operational scenarios, passengers making phone calls could extend beyond a mere nuisance, creating negative effects on aviation safety and security that are great and far too risky," the flight attendants group said.

"Our customer feedback indicates people may not want that policy, but of course tastes and desires change," JetBlue spokesman Morgan Johnston said in an email. "We would prioritize making the cabin comfortable and welcoming for all - for those who want cell service and for those who like peace and quiet."

Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel analyst with Hudson Crossing, said, "There are bad ideas, and then there's this."

"Unlike the ability to use their personal electronics and Wi-Fi from gate to gate, passengers don't want this," he added. "The constant chatter of passengers on their mobile phones has the potential to further increase tension among already stressed-out passengers. It will be a catalyst for increased cases of `air rage.'"

Airline pilot and blogger Patrick Smith said permitting phone calls on planes "introduces yet another stress factor into an already stressful environment."

"Airports already are such loud places," he said. "It's the airplane itself, ironically, that is often the most quiet and peaceful part of the air travel experience. Is that about to change?"

Should the FCC lift its restrictions on cellphone use, airlines would still have the option of deciding whether to equip planes with picocells - small, satellite base stations - to handle calls. American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said the airline will wait to see what the FCC does. "However, our Wi-Fi at this time doesn't allow voice calls."

In October, the Federal Aviation Administration lifted restrictions on the use of most personal electronic devices during takeoffs and landings, but not cellphone calls, which fall under the FCC. The FAA long had barred the use of electronic devices below 10,000 feet because of concern they could cause electronic interference with aircraft systems during landings, the phase of flight when accidents are most likely to occur.

The FAA based its decision to ease the restrictions based on recommendations from an industry advisory group, which said use of tablets, music players and other devices doesn't cause dangerous interference on modern airliners. Passengers are supposed to put the devices on "airplane mode." The same advisory group also recommended that the FCC review its restrictions on phone calls.

The FCC proposal is primarily a response to the advisory group's recommendation, an FCC spokesman said.

If the agency decides to move ahead with the proposal, it would be just the first step in a long rulemaking process that includes soliciting public comment. Also, the FAA, which regulates equipment airlines add to their planes, would probably have a say on whether plane should be retrofitted with picocells, the spokesman said.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 2 years ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 2 years ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 2 years ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 2 years ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 2 years ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 2 years ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 2 years ago )
Local/State News
Search for Missouri couple wanted for crimes across the South, including Ga., ends with one suspect dead and the other wounded
A weeklong search for a Missouri couple wanted in a series of robberies and abductions across the South ended with one suspect dead and the other wounded Friday, after authorities say they chased the pair across the highway and through a rural neighborhood and exchanged gunfire with them in Florida's Panhandle.
By The Associated Press
9:57PM ( 6 hours ago )
Cheap oil will be sticking around for a while, buoying consumers, frustrating oil producers
Cheap oil will be sticking around for a while.That reality is wreaking havoc and causing uncertainty for some governments and businesses, while creating financial windfalls for others. Less expensive...
6:18PM ( 3 days ago )
Cruz (R) expected to claim conservative Iowa caucus victory, with Clinton (D) and Sanders (D) deadlocked among liberal vote
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz swept to victory in Iowa's Republican caucuses Monday, overcoming billionaire Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were deadlocked in a tight race.
By The Associated Press
10:55PM ( 4 days ago )
America, its politics in flux as voting begins
On the eve of the first contest on the 2016 presidential election calendar, some voters are pushing for bolder, more uncompromising action, with an intensity that has shaken both the Republican and Democratic establishments.
By The Associated Press
9:00PM ( 5 days ago )
Piedmont College biology professor says getting rid of mosquito breeding areas key to control of Zika virus
The World Health Organization says the Zika virus is likely to spread to every area of the U.S. where the mosquito that carries it can be found - and that includes Georgia.
By Russell Brown
9:38AM ( 5 days ago )