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House Committee Approves Bill Banning In-Flight Phone Calls 366

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-to-work-bill dept.
An anonymous reader tips news that the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved a bill that would ban voice calls from mobile devices on airplanes. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), now goes to the full House of Representatives for a vote. Similar efforts are underway in the Senate. There was no opposition to Shuster's bill in the House committee, and the FCC received a flood of support for such a measure when they asked for public comment. In an op-ed published Monday, Shuster wrote, "In today’s world, enriched as it is by technology, we are bombarded by data, opinions, and potential distractions. Few limits to this flow of information are necessary, partly because people can typically turn it off, disconnect from it, or go elsewhere if they choose. But in the close confines of an airplane cabin – where passengers will still be able to use their mobile devices for texting, emailing, working, and more – there is no chance to opt out. So for those few hours of flight spent with 150 strangers, we can all wait to make that phone call. It’s just common sense and common courtesy."
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House Committee Approves Bill Banning In-Flight Phone Calls

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  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @03:44PM (#46221699)
    Screaming kids? Body odor? Flying with garlic breath?

    Don't you love it when they're legislating "common courtesy"?

    • by gordo3000 (785698) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @03:50PM (#46221787)

      this has little to do with courtesy. You can talk on a phone and not be an ass (use noise canceling headphones, noise canceling microphones, keep your voice down, and talk.

      Much more annoying are the kids on a college or high school trip who feel the need to shout at their friends 5 rows away. When you make it illegal for people to hold conversations at all, I'll get behind this.

      • by Soulskill (1459) Works for Slashdot

        You can talk on a phone and not be an ass (use noise canceling headphones, noise canceling microphones, keep your voice down, and talk.

        This is basically how I feel about it. When I fly, I can occasionally hear conversations within a few rows, but the noise of the plane drowns out anything further away. The conversations I do hear don't really bother me, so I'm not sure why hearing half a conversation would be significant enough to warrant legislation. Granted, if somebody's loud and obnoxious about it, that

        • by jon3k (691256)
          Yeah I don't get it. I can have a conversation with the person next to me, but I can't make a phone call? Huh?
    • by coolsnowmen (695297) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @03:56PM (#46221885)

      It doest seem stupid, but what other recorse is there when we're surrounded by the discourteous ? I fly all the time and I'm tired of getting into confrontatins with people who I'd like to turn their smart phone/laptop movie down or use earphones. I've had ass holes look me in the eye and just say, " It's not mine ".

      Part of the problem is me, I have some ADD, and I choose not to take medication, and I have a hard time tuning things out pretty much all the time. In 99% of my life I can avoid it by personal choice, my own earphones, etc. But when I'm stuck on public transportation, I don't have that luxary.

      Part of the problem is that this technology didn't exist when their parents were teaching them how to behave. So, we have problem where technology has outpaced common coutesy and politeness, and it is going to be a while before society catches up.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bartles (1198017)
        I think your cologne is discourteous. We need to make cologne on airplanes illegal. So is your flatulence, let's make that illegal too. Also, your political views, let's make those illegal and not just on airplanes, but you are still free to practice them in your home. For now.
        • I think your cologne is discourteous. We need to make cologne on airplanes illegal. So is your flatulence, let's make that illegal too

          Those restrictions are not enforceable. It's not obvious who's wearing cologne or who farted. It is obvious if someone is speaking on a phone, and it's easy to make them stop.

      • It doest seem stupid, but what other recorse is there when we're surrounded by the discourteous ? I fly all the time and I'm tired of getting into confrontatins with people who I'd like to turn their smart phone/laptop movie down or use earphones.

        Next time you fly, take along a roll of aluminum foil. When a problem arises, use the foil to tightly and completely wrap the annoying person along with his/her phone.

      • by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @04:29PM (#46222329) Journal

        Part of the problem is me, I have some ADD, and I choose not to take medication, and I have a hard time tuning things out pretty much all the time. In 99% of my life I can avoid it by personal choice, my own earphones, etc. But when I'm stuck on public transportation, I don't have that luxary.

        If you can identify the problem, you can solve it.

        As often as I fly, I *rarely* have someone who blares noise out of a device loud enough to overpower the all-encompassing engine noise, and of those few, they were always kids. Those rare times were solved with a simple "...dude, turn that down." Most times, I'm the one with earphones in, or if sleeping, earplugs (which has the bonus of blocking out all noise.) I also make my life easier by taking flights that only business travelers would be on. That almost always gives me more room to stretch and sleep (as a bonus, there's rarely any screaming kids/babies on the red-eye flights.)

        The vast majority of humanity is smart enough to realize that being jammed into tight quarters means that you have to pretty much be courteous. Anything else quickly escalates into something that gets you arrested and/or banned from flying.

        Some things you simply cannot avoid: screaming babies who aren't old enough to have figured out that whole ear-popping thing, rambunctious toddlers/kids, the morbidly obese dude who smells like a garlic factory and drapes over both armrests, the occasional half-drunken dumbass(es) on the way to some booze-cruise, and suchlike. You simply make do stand your ground etiquette-wise, and most importantly know when to ignore it and when to get involved. Anything else can be solved with a quick ring-up of the steward/ess (because anything above that involves an air marshal, and again, most folks are smart enough to realize that it only gets ugly beyond that point.) If all else fails and there's an empty seat somewhere else, you can move to that seat.

        IMHO though, the absolute best way I've found to ensure courtesy in a flight is to chat up everyone around me as they sit down. They either join in and courtesy kicks in (since you're no longer some nameless stranger), or they do their level best to tune you out (which means they don't want to get your attention, so they'll be very quiet, etc.)

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        I mostly agree with you, but on public transportation, you actually do have the luxury of using headphones to isolate yourself from others, as well as the inherent noise of the aircraft. I've done it many times. Noise-cancelling headphones would be even better.

    • So should this extend to private flights?

  • I'm confused (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by 0123456 (636235)

    I've looked through the Constitution, but I don't see where Congress gets the power to ban telephone calls on planes.

    • Congress has the authority to regulate the airspace and, as such, regulates the rules of commercial air travel.

      PRIVATE planes can make all the calls they want. (And, of course, texting while piloting a plane is the cause of many air accidents and therefore should be banned...)

      • "Congress has the authority to regulate the airspace and, as such, regulates the rules of commercial air travel."

        NO, it doesn't. Congress has the authority to regulate certain aspects of interstate travel that relate to commerce. THAT IS ALL.

        Granted, they have assumed the authority to regulate airspace. But that doesn't mean that the authority really, lawfully exists.

        • Ahh... so I can smoke in airplanes then as it's my constitutional right?

          • by mwvdlee (775178)

            If the airline is willing to take the risk of losing repeat customers by allowing you to do so; yes.

          • In your own airplane, sure - smoke all you want, as long as your cockpit doesn't end up looking like a scene out of a Cheech and Chong movie, no problemo.

          • Nope. Smoking is prohibited under the guise of aircraft safety, which does fall under federal regulation. And even if it didn't, at this point in time, no airline would allow it. The FAA has already cleared phones on safety grounds, so this law banning in flight calls (as opposed to in flight data communications) is probably on shaky ground. It may be mooted as I think most airlines will ban voice calls anyway.

            • Re:I'm confused (Score:4, Informative)

              by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @05:20PM (#46222851)
              The Federal government only has authority over "Aircraft safety" on the basis already given above. They actually (legally, Constitutionally) have authority only over interstate commerce. Theoretically, they should have no authority over in-state flights AT ALL.

              They have used the commerce clause as an excuse to regulate just about everything imaginable under the sun, but I will repeat: that doesn't mean they really have genuine, lawful authority over it. Constitutional scholars are generally in agreement that the commerce clause was never intended to give the Feds the kind of authority SCOTUS claimed in Wickard v. Filburn.
        • Dude - "Interstate Commerce" is the backdoor password to all kinds of unconstitutional crap (e.g. drinking age laws, etc).... pity the US Supreme Court has yet to put at least some sort of definitive stop to that shit.

          • by Shetan (20885)

            I thought drinking age laws were coerced on the States with the threat of pulling road funding rather than mandated through the Interstate commerce clause.

      • by bhcompy (1877290)
        Up until about 5 years ago, it was common to see phones on certain long haul planes in the backs of seats. Hell, a subplot of Die Hard 2 revolves around the fact that this existed. Why is this a problem now and not then?
        • Up until about 5 years ago, it was common to see phones on certain long haul planes in the backs of seats. Hell, a subplot of Die Hard 2 revolves around the fact that this existed. Why is this a problem now and not then?

          Cost. The phone in the back of the seat cost about a dollar a minute (or more) to use. Great for making a quick call to someone to say your flight changed, was late, is early, whatever. Not good for chatting inanely. Self-limits people wanting to just yak continuously.

          Cheers,
          Dave

    • by Valdrax (32670)

      I've looked through the Constitution, but I don't see where Congress gets the power to ban telephone calls on planes.

      Holy crap! You're right! There's nothing in the Constitution about specific situations and technologies that didn't exist at the time. Those things must be completely impossible to regulate. Someone tell all the justices on the Supreme Court that 0123456 has completely revolutionized Constitutional Law and saved us from a thousand years of tyranny our that our forefathers, in their infinite wisdom, never intended as they saw all laws as being tied to the circumstances of their present and past. Thank G

    • Article I, Section 8. Between the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause, Congress clearly has the constitutional authority to do this.

      It's weird how people screaming the loudest about the constitution seem to know the least about it.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @03:45PM (#46221711) Homepage Journal

    They're so concerned about people making calls, yet they've had airline phones for years.

    And how is it any worse to be trapped on a plane with such idiots than on a bus? At least on a plane you're only stuck with them for a couple hours, not all day on an overland trip.

    • by tiberus (258517)
      1. I can't say "I've had all I can stand, I can't stand no more.." pull the cord and get off the plane
      2. Assaulting someone (verbally or otherwise) carries much higher penalties on a plane
      3. Last time I was on a bus, or train I was much more comfortable than I am on the plane
      • by neminem (561346)

        Last I checked you can't get from LA to Europe on a bus or train. (Technically you could get there on a boat, but it takes *forever*.)

        • I'm not sure that a US domestic law would apply to the overseas portion of the flight. The airline may still have a policy prohibiting in-flight voice calls, but I don't think the law would apply.

    • by dcsmith (137996)

      They're so concerned about people making calls, yet they've had airline phones for years.

      And how is it any worse to be trapped on a plane with such idiots than on a bus? At least on a plane you're only stuck with them for a couple hours, not all day on an overland trip.

      Airline phones = Way Expensive = Nobody used them = No Problem
      Idiots on a bus = People who don't have enough money to fly = Fewer people used them = Not as big a problem.
      See also; As a rule of thumb if you can afford to fly you're not taking the bus.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        Idiots on a bus = People who don't have enough money to fly = Fewer people used them = Not as big a problem.

        Not true. Have you looked at the prices for Greyhound tickets? It's really no bargain, especially when you consider the ridiculous amount of time it takes to get anywhere since they stop at every podunk town in between.

        The people who ride the bus are people who aren't able to fly for various reasons, usually because they don't have proper ID (e.g., illegal immigrants).

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      They're so concerned about people making calls, yet they've had airline phones for years.

      Right, but the airlines get to charge for those. They can't risk having their monopoly evaporate.

    • They're so concerned about people making calls, yet they've had airline phones for years.

      When's the last time you've flown? Because while at one time they did have such phones, I haven't seen one in years and I do fly at least once a year, sometimes internationally. Surely you do know that when you have pay airline prices to use their phones, when they were available, no person in coach was going to talk more than a few minutes due to the cost.

    • by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @04:15PM (#46222149)

      > yet they've had airline phones for years.

      You can still use those phones:

      "`(B) LIMITATION- The term `mobile communications device' does not include a phone installed on an aircraft.'." -- Bill Text [loc.gov]

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      They're so concerned about people making calls, yet they've had airline phones for years.

      Those were never a problem because no one ever used those phones. They were so ridiculously expensive that no one bothered. I really wonder how much money was wasted outfitting planes with those things, only to remove them later (I haven't seen a plane with those in years). With the new rules allowing the use of phones on planes at all times, people will start using them for talking during the flight, which will ann

  • by cowtamer (311087) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @03:47PM (#46221735) Journal

    Why must it be a law? Shouldn't airlines be free to implement their "please don't talk other passengers' heads off" policy ?

  • by Stonefish (210962) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @03:52PM (#46221825)

    Ban voice calls on planes, in airport lounges, subways, resturants and cinema. We need legislation so that the state and lawyer can become involved in the enforcement of manners. Also we need laws on the correct position of toilets seats, cutlery positions after meals and the poking and prodding of bodily orrifices in publice places. Conversations on planes should be banned as well as they annoy surrounding passengers as well as children, infants and movies..........Or we could just ensure that airlines provide earplugs on request.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Look, if Congress didn't spend time writing laws about courtesy, they might have to acknowledge things like warrantless mass surveillance and be forced to pass meaningful legislation!
  • ... and yet they're OK with the TSA sticking fingers up your bucket?

  • The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), now goes to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

    So a republican is legislating good manners? I thought they were against the government telling us how to live our lives.

    What's wrong with allowing the airlines set the policy on their own planes?

    • The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), now goes to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

      So a republican is legislating good manners?

      A Republican sponsored the bill (i.e., rubberstamped his name to a document written by a lobbyist), but it has no chance of passing without support from members of both sides of the One Party.

      I thought they were against the government telling us how to live our lives.

      Then you've made the fatal error of actually believing something a politician told you. Don't worry, it happens to the best of us, all you can do is learn from your mistakes and try to avoid making the same ones again.

      What's wrong with allowing the airlines set the policy on their own planes?

      Realistically? Nothing.

      From a federal government perspective? 'Because then we only have most of the p

      • A Republican sponsored the bill (i.e., rubberstamped his name to a document written by a lobbyist), but it has no chance of passing without support from members of both sides of the One Party.

        How is that different? Regardless of who wrote the bill, this republican senator decided that it was worth legislating.

        I thought they were against the government telling us how to live our lives.

        Then you've made the fatal error of actually believing something a politician told you. Don't worry, it happens to the best

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      Republicans are all about legislating morality; where'd you ever get the idea they were against the government telling us how to live our lives? You're thinking of the Libertarians, which the Republicans are not like (though they like to give lip service to some libertarian ideals).

      Of course, the Democrats like to tell us how to live our lives too, just in different ways.

      • Yes but the republicans make a big show of how it's bad that the government tell us how we live our lives. That was the point of my sarcasm.
  • Seriously, these are the same group of ppl that are telling NASA that they MUST build the SLS.
    Likewise, that the DOD MUST build another 1000 M1A2 tanks, even though the DOD has 3000 of them and desperately wants to bring the line down for several years to make changes to the tank so that it can handle IEDs and other items.
    And the same group of ppl that refuse to deal with our illegal alien issues.
    And The same ones that built the NSA to spy on Americans and foreign leaders.
    And the same group that destroy
    • These GD neo-cons are destroying America.b

      That statement belies the fact that the GD neo-'progressives' are just as bad, if not worse.

      Diane Feinstein; 'nuff said.

  • If you recall a while back the NSA was upset because calls made from planes were harder to listen in on. How is someone talking on the phone any worse than the two people next to you having a conversation or talking on the airline provided phone? Once again the media just plays along with a obvious lie.
  • How about adding old fashioned phone booths to airplanes? I can already see the Dr. Who episode...

    • I believe that the episode you're thinking of was Time Flight. They put the TARDIS aboard a Concorde and flew 140 million years into the past.

  • Will never work. No more than you can legislate away hatred and bias.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @04:40PM (#46222463) Homepage
    This is as Un-american a bill as you can get.

    Look, I hate and despise people that are rude enough to use a phone on an airplane.

    But when Republicans talk about unwarranted government intrusion on our lives, THIS is what they should mean. Not healthcare, not abortion, not welfare. THIS is exactly the kind of laws that our founders were afraid of.

    We should not be making rude behavior, no matter how rude it is, a crime.

    What is worse, the same effect could have been done in an ethical manner. Simply require that all phone calls be done next to but not in the bathroom. Or, if you want to make it a money maker, pass a law that requires airlines to collect a $5 per minute tax for phone calls made in flight - and allow the airlines to add their own fee on top of that, up to a maximum of $20 per minute.

    • Or, if you want to make it a money maker, pass a law that requires airlines to collect a $5 per minute tax for phone calls made in flight - and allow the airlines to add their own fee on top of that, up to a maximum of $20 per minute.

      To me this seems just as unamerican bad as banning it. In fact I think it is actually worse.

      I think the "american" way to do it would be to allow airlines to make their own rules. If customers feel so strongly about banning phone calls in the air, then they have every reason to make this against the rules. Let the airlines figure out what customers want. Congress should stay out of it ompletely.

      • by gurps_npc (621217)
        If you think charging to do something is worse than banning it completely, then I have a serious objection to your ethical standards.

        Taxes are an established way to ameliorate the "Tragedy of the commons" and this is a prime example of the "Tragedy of the commons" (see wikipedia). Sound is a clear common good that people can abuse, turning silence into a cacophony.

        • If you think charging to do something is worse than banning it completely, then I have a serious objection to your ethical standards. Taxes are an established way to ameliorate the "Tragedy of the commons" and this is a prime example of the "Tragedy of the commons" (see wikipedia). Sound is a clear common good that people can abuse, turning silence into a cacophony.

          In certain cases (including this one), yes. Usually when you tax people to *ameliorate* the tragedy of the commons, the money is supposed to go to actually ameliorating it, rather than just going to the government.

          So if you tax smoking, you are supposed to use this money to help offset the cost smokers might put on the healthcare system or educate young people to the dangers of smoking. If you just tax smoking and put the money in the general fund, then it's just a money grab.

          Taxing airplane phone calls a

  • Seriously, is this really such a pressing thing that it needs to be done at the Federal level, really? If it's a problem, let the airlines create "non-voice communicating" sections in the airplane as a market differentiator and allow the people who want to quietly read tp opt into those areas. Maybe make them infant free zones as well.
  • Since most airlines have in-flight phones anyway these days?

  • by kamelkev (114875) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @04:54PM (#46222611)

    If you read the article itself you will see that the bill actually bans voice communications through mobile electronics - not just phone calls. As written it would appear the bill would ban phones as well as skype, hangouts and other voice related calls. I suppose this cascades right over to video calls as well.

    I find it rather questionable that just months after the FCC finally admitted that there was no reason to ban mobile electronics the "authorities" are once again making a move to regulate mobile electronics. It's not even based on a rationale reason, instead the reason has now become "because I don't like it". Makes one wonder if a constitutional argument can be made here based on freedom of speech - this seemingly is an infringement without justification. Not that Congress has ever cared about such things before.

    What happens with all those phones installed on the backs of the seats in the older variants of planes? I flew last year and saw them, although it's not clear to me whether or not they have become decorative or still function.

  • You aren't supposed to use a phone in a theater. It's courtesy not to use a phone in lots of cases.. in the line while waiting for your sandwich, in a meeting or conference with lots of other people, etc.

    Make a courtesy area that people are allowed to use their phone and make an airline rule that you can't use a phone and that is fine. Making it illegal because you think it's rude is ridiculous. What if there is an ACTUAL emergency. My parents aren't very good with text and they always know when I'm on

  • Because, after all, if you're in a plane (even if it's hijacked), you shouldn't be allowed to call 911 or your loved ones on your cell phone.

    Every time I think Congress couldn't get any stupider, they prove me wrong.

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