FCC Chair Says Airlines Will Make Final In-Flight Call

Posted by at 3:26 pm on November 24, 2013

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has sought to clarify the FCC’s stance on making phone calls from airplanes.

Wheeler notes that the FCC’s role is technological only. “The job of the FCC with respect to this issue is related to communications technology. Technology is available and being deployed today on flights outside the United States that permits use of mobile devices on planes without causing interference to cell phone networks on the ground. These advances in technology likely no longer warrant – on a technological basis – the prohibition of in-flight phone use with the appropriate on-board equipment,” said Wheeler. In other words, the FCC can only determine if modern plane-based calling systems are safe for use on American airliners.

It is up to each individual airline, however, to decide if in-flight cellular calling is something they want to offer to customers. Wheeler also said the public has an opportunity to provide feedback on the idea. “We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself. Ultimately, if the FCC adopts the proposal in the coming months, it will be airlines’ decisions, in consultation with their customers, as to whether to permit voice calls while airborne.

We believe that airlines are best positioned to make such decisions. For this reason, our proposal does not impose any requirement that airlines should provide voice connectivity. We encourage airlines, pilots, flight attendants, and the public to engage in our upcoming rulemaking process.”

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