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Americans To FCC Chair: No Cell Calls On Planes, Please 340

jfruh writes "Who says Americans are politically apathetic? The FCC's proposal to allow cellular data — and, if the airline allows it, voice calls — on airplanes unleashed a flood of responses even before the official comment period began this week. The sentiment was overwhelmingly opposed to people talking on phones in flight. Some correspondents spun terrifying hypotheticals about yapping teens, some accused FCC chair Tom Wheeler of flying on private planes and being out of touch with the full-on horror of in-flight chatter, and one person concluded their letter with the word 'no' with letter 'o' repeated 213 times."
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Americans To FCC Chair: No Cell Calls On Planes, Please

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  • by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:47PM (#45987473)

    While I find the idea of being trapped next to someone making a phone call on a plane loathsome, the FCC really shouldn't be in the position of banning things just because they're annoying. If there's no technical/safety reason to ban the calls, allow them. The AIRLINES, on the other hand, really SHOULD ban these calls, and most have already said that they would.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:54PM (#45987579)

    It's really that big a problem? Kinda like the relaxation of pocketknives rule? With respect to anyone so offended, it ain't a movie theater. Shut up, buy some earplugs, and deal.

  • Re:Allow it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:54PM (#45987587) Journal

    Nice compromise, but seating space is already at cattle-car tightness now. I can only imagine what it would squeeze everyone down to if you had to accommodate a frickin' room with soundproofing.

    Personally, and as a guy who travels on business a lot, I MUCH prefer that cell phone usage remain banned (data usage okay, but no cell usage).

    Why? Two reasons:

    1) people are annoying enough - imagine 100-200 of them in a tiny cabin practically yelling into their cell phones.

    2) I love not having to answer emails or phone calls while in-flight.

  • Imagine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:54PM (#45987589) Homepage

    A night flight. The plane is quiet.


    "Yeah, I couldn't sleep... No, they've fed us.... HA HA HA HA HA!!! Yeah, that's right! HA HA HA HA HA!!! I know what you mean and there's that.... HA HA HA HA HA!!!! Do you remember that?... HA HA HA HA HA!!!"

  • I also don't see how a US government organisation can ban the act of speech for a non-safety related reason - surely that would violate freedom of speech?

    Once the FCC and FAA concluded it was no longer a safety concern, their remit for control of it expired and the only entities that could ban it on "annoyance" grounds would be the airlines that operate the aircraft.

  • Re:Allow it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lagomorpha2 ( 1376475 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:01PM (#45987737)

    " (data usage okay, but no cell usage)."

    The FCC's job here is to create rules to promote safety. If it's an annoyance issue then the airlines should be the ones making rules about it. We don't need the FCC legislating cell phone use in movie theaters and cell phone use in planes can be dealt with the same way - anyone who won't stop talking on their phone in the theater/plane will be made to leave.

  • by Scowler ( 667000 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:07PM (#45987803)
    Public libraries often ban talking on cell phones, and not on any safety grounds.
  • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:09PM (#45987827) Homepage Journal

    This is worse than apathy.

    Americans are now wholly incapable of thinking for themselves. Instead of insisting that airlines provide the service they want, and voting with their money, they want to tell the government to force everyone to go along with those who shout the loudest. If there's no safety issue with cell phones, is it even the government's business? Most airlines will ban phone usage, except perhaps in business class or wherever else warranted. Some won't, and for those who can't cut the (totally nonexistent) cord they'll choose those airlines.

    I find it hypocritical that anyone who believes in personal liberties should support the government regulating behavior they find annoying.

  • Re:Imagine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mjr167 ( 2477430 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:13PM (#45987899)

    A night flight. The plane is quiet.


    Mommy... I have to pee... Mommy... I need a glass of water. Mommy... why does the man sitting next to us have this funny mask over his eyes? Is he playing a game? Can I play too? HEY! Do you have an extra mask? What are we playing?

  • by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:14PM (#45987929)

    Couple of things:

    1. Net neutrality isn't banned, it's just that the FCC would need to issue new rules to enforce it. The court specifically said that the FCC _could_ enforce net neutrality rules, if it classified ISPs under title II (as common carriers).

    2. Even if the rules had remained in place, it wouldn't have prevented inflight providers from blocking certain apps for network performance reasons (Gogo does this this today with video services like Netflix or HBO Go), so long as they were evenhanded about it (i.e. not saying "Netflix is fine, but no HBO Go, since Netflix is paying us and HBO isn't").

  • not their job (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Xicor ( 2738029 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:19PM (#45988005)
    the fcc is not responsible for making laws preventing annoyance... they are responsible for safety. it shouldnt be up to the FCC to ban talking on cell phones, it should be up to the airline to decide whether they want to ban talking or not.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:24PM (#45988103)

    and i don't find them the least bit annoying.

    i think it would be very similar for airplanes.

  • by monkeyhybrid ( 1677192 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:24PM (#45988105)

    I've never tried to make a call but I have happily sent texts during a flight before. I can't say I paid much attention to it at the time, but I'm pretty sure I had a good bar or two of reception, at least whilst over land, so I'm guessing a call could have worked ok too. I'm sure the sitting-in-a-metal-tube thing won't help but presumably the windows allow enough RF to pass through.

    Also, some of the passengers of 'flight 93' made calls to their loved ones during the 9/11 hijackings.

  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:41PM (#45988337) Journal

    Yes, but individual public libraries aren't the federal government banning them wholesale across an entire swath of private property. Individual libraries have the right to make that decision for themselves. Perhaps they would want to provide specific areas where people could use cell phones, thus people that don't want to be around them can simply stay away from that area. Similarly, why couldn't airlines sell seats in specific sections of the plane (the back perhaps?) where cell phone calls were allowed? That shouldn't be up to the FCC since cell phones have been proven to not crash airplanes through their EMF emissions.

  • by aviators99 ( 895782 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:43PM (#45988383) Homepage

    Philosophically speaking, it doesn't make sense to ban people talking on the phone and not ban people talking to the person next to them. I've never heard anyone asking the FCC (or slightly more reasonably the FAA) to regulate the volume people can speak on the plane.

    Practically speaking, people tend to speak more loudly when they are speaking on the phone. Normally, this is not necessary. Part of the problem is that unlike landlines (remember them?), you don't get the feedback in the earpiece of your own voice when you're speaking on a mobile phone. Psychologically, this creates a desire to "speak up". This could be helped immensely big changing the way the hardware works.

    You could also require the use of some sort of external headset that provides feedback and eliminates background noise better than the existing phones.

    Most importantly, educating people that they don't need to speak that loudly into mobile phones could go a long way. And not only on airplanes.

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:32PM (#45990025)

    "But I'm not sure that is banning "speech" as it is about banning "speaking"."

    There are probably think-tanks that would pay to have someone with your ability to contort logic into previously unthinkable directions. Also have you considered becoming a corporate attorney?

    Doesn't matter. Free speech isn't anything you folks are arguing about. Free speech is not being arrested by the Government for expressing your opinion. Even then, good luck threatening to kill someone, or the famous "Yelling FIRE! in a crowded theater".

    Free speech was never about a person's unadulterated right to say whatever they want, whenever they want to, and no response from anyone else allowed.

    All of which is to say that if some asshat starts talking on their phone in the plane, and the other passengers beat the bejabbers out of him, the asshat can have them arrested for assault, but his freedom of speech has not been abridged.

    No corporate attorney duplicity needed.

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