The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Business

February 21, 2014

Cellphone calls on planes? Don’t ask the feds

WASHINGTON — It looks like the government is more conflicted about cellphones on planes than most travelers. Even as one federal agency considers allowing the calls, another now wants to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Passengers — particularly those who fly often — oppose allowing calls in flight, polls show. In line with that sentiment, the Department of Transportation signaled in a notice posted online Friday that it wants to retain the 23-year-old ban on the calls. But the notice comes just two months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to pursue lifting the ban.

The Transportation Department regulates aviation consumer issues. The FCC has responsibility over whether the use of cellphones in flight would interfere with cellular networks on the ground.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he wants to repeal the current ban, calling it restrictive and outdated. He also wants the airlines, not the government, to have final say on in-flight calling. He declined to comment Friday on the department’s notice.

Echoing some travelers’ concerns, the Transportation Department said it believes allowing passengers to make cellphone calls “may be harmful or injurious” to other passengers.

This is because “people tend to talk louder on cellphones than when they’re having face-to-face conversations,” the department said. “They are also likely to talk more and further increase the noise on a flight, as passengers would not be simply talking to the persons sitting next to them but can call whomever they like.”

Some planes already have seat-back phones in place, but they are rarely used, it said.

The “concern is not about individual calls, but rather the cumulative impact of allowing in-flight calls in close quarters,” the department said.

In an Associated Press-GfK poll three months ago, 48 percent of those surveyed opposed letting cellphones be used for voice calls while planes are in flight, while 19 percent were in favor and 30 percent were neutral. Among those who’d flown four or more times in the previous year, the rate of opposition soared to 78 percent.

Delta Air Lines told the government last year that 64 percent of its passengers indicated that the ability to make phone calls in flight would have a negative impact on their onboard experience.

The FCC has already received more than 1,200 public comments on its proposal, almost all of them opposed to lifting the ban.

“Nobody, absolutely nobody, wants to be the involuntary audience of another passenger’s telephone conversation,” one commenter said Friday. “It is the equivalent of torture to be forced to listen to the incessant prattling of a seatmate, compounded by the impossibility of escape.”

Among the most ardent opponents of lifting the current ban are flight attendants, who worry that phone conversation will spark arguments between passengers and even acts of violence.

“Allowing passengers to use cellphones during commercial flights will add unacceptable risks to aviation security, compromise a flight attendant’s ability to maintain order in an emergency, increase cabin noise and tension among passengers and interfere with crewmembers in the performance of their duties as first responders in the cabin,” said Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, responding to the department’s proposal. The association represents nearly 60,000 flight attendants at 19 carriers.

Congress, inhabited by some of the nation’s most frequent flyers, is also getting into the act. Lawmakers are pushing legislation to require transportation regulators to implement a ban on calls.

“When it comes to cellphones on planes, tap don’t talk,” Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said last week as the committee gave bipartisan approval to his bill.

The current FCC ban was adopted in 1991 based on concern the calls planes might interfere with cellular networks on the ground, but technological advances have resolved those worries. In 2005, the FCC cleared the way for airlines to begin offering Wi-Fi in flight.

Last October, the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates safety, dropped its ban on the use of personal electronic devices such as tablets, music players and smartphones to send email, to text or to surf the Internet during takeoffs and landings. The agency said it is no longer worried the devices will interfere with cockpit electronics. However, phone calls during takeoffs and landings are still prohibited.

 

1
Text Only
Business
  • Business US stocks open higher; Yahoo soars in early trade

    U.S. stocks moved higher in early trading on Wednesday, extending their gains into a third day. Investors welcomed solid earnings from Yahoo as well as some encouraging news about China’s economy and U.S. factory production.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why high oil prices are actually good for airlines

    Airline executives frequently complain about fuel costs. But the truth is higher prices actually have been good for business.

    April 16, 2014

  • Detroit strikes second deal with its other retirees

    The city of Detroit reached tentative agreements to preserve pensions for retired police office and firefighters but cut monthly payments for other former employees, key deals that could accelerate the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history, officials said Tuesday.

    April 16, 2014

  • Missouri court expands legal rights for injured workers

    The Missouri Supreme Court has overturned 30 years of precedent with a ruling that gives greater legal protections to injured workers who are fired from their jobs.

    April 15, 2014

  • Immigration activists urge Obama to act boldly

    Latinos and immigration activists are warning of political peril for President Barack Obama and Democrats in the fall election unless the president acts boldly and soon to curb deportations and allow more immigrants to remain legally in the U.S.

    April 15, 2014

  • Farmers off to slow start planting corn crop

    Spring planting across the nation’s Corn Belt is sputtering because the soil remains too soggy or cold for effective seeding.

    April 15, 2014

  • Schreiber Foods schedules Carthage plant expansion

    Plans to expand a Schreiber Foods plant to eventually add 160 new jobs have been endorsed by a Carthage committee working with the company. Andrew Tobish, director of combinations for Schreiber, which is based in Green Bay, Wis., confirmed the project, which he said would be complete by late spring or early summer in 2015.

    April 15, 2014

  • Smartphone Durability 1.jpg Study: Samsung phone durable, but iPhone has edge

    Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 smartphone is more durable than last year’s model and other leading Android phones, but the iPhone 5s outperformed all of them in part because of its smaller size, a new study finds.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • People with old Social Security debts get reprieve

    People with old Social Security debts are getting a reprieve — for now.

    April 15, 2014

  • Business US stocks drift lower in morning trading

    Stocks drifted lower in morning trading Tuesday, giving up an early gain. Investors pored over corporate earnings from Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola and others, but also were weighing weighing rising tensions in Ukraine and a survey showing that homebuilders’ confidence in the housing market remains low.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

In an effort to curb prostitution, St. Louis police are targeting, and perhaps humiliating, the "johns" who use the services. Postcards mailed to the homes of those charged with trying to pick up prostitutes will offer a reminder about spreading sexually transmitted diseases, along with listing the court date. Do you think this is a good approach?

A. Yes.
N. No.
     View Results
Facebook
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
NDN Video