FCC Backs Away From Approving Phone Calls at 30,000 Feet

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Person uses a smartphone on an airplane
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If sitting next to a passenger on an airplane who is talking and laughing loudly on the phone sounds like a travel nightmare, this will surely make you smile: A new proposal aims to ensure that airplanes remain voice call-free zones.

Four years after the Federal Communications Commission first considered allowing passengers on commercial flights to make voice phone calls, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants the agency to abandon its consideration so commercial planes can remain cellphone call-free at 30,000 feet.

Pai says in a statement:

“I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes. Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”

Airline industry groups and labor unions were quick to oppose former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s idea about leaving the decision on in-flight calls up to airlines, citing concerns about noisy flights and other potential disturbances, says NBC News.

The FCC banned mobile phones when they were a new technology, “out of concern that the signals might interfere with aviation systems or networks on the ground,” explains Consumerist.

Later, the FCC wanted to study whether it was possible to safely use cellphones in high altitudes, which Wheeler in 2013 said he believed was the case. Pai wants to abandon that line of questioning and, instead, continue with call-free flights.

“I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest,” says Pai.

Appointed to the FCC by President Barack Obama in May 2012, Pai now needs the support of two other agency commissioners before the 2013 plan to look into making voice calls on planes can officially be suspended, NBC reports.

Do you think the FCC should continue to ban voice cellphone calls on flights? Sound off below or on Facebook.

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