Talking tech since 2003

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, made a few announcements that they were changing the rules that have kept our electronic devices and cell phones stowed and powered down while flying. Those changes included giving passengers the ability to keep devices on and in-use during takeoffs and landings, and there was even room made for possible mid-flight cell phone conversations. However, a new report from the Wall Street Journal today says that a different government agency – the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) may step in and clamp back down on that last rule.

While the report says that the airlines want in-flight calling to be left to their own discretion, the DOT may step in anyway. Citing its mandate to issue rules governing “consumer-protection, the DOT may ban in-flight calls in order to make sure that airlines give passengers “safe and adequate” service. The idea here, of course, is that a ban would protect airline customers from being subjected to, well, other obnoxious passengers.

That’s kind of ironic, too, isn’t it? The DOT would create a rule to ensure that airlines provide good service to passengers, but the rule would pretty much only govern the behavior of those very passengers.

While I personally think that the ability to make in-flight calls would be pretty horrible for passengers who just want to rest or relax on a trip, I do understand why the airlines would want to have this issue left to them to decide. After all, an airline might love to offer a special, premium-priced business class ticket that allows passengers to make in-flight calls. Or perhaps they would want to segregate portions of the plane for passengers who do want to make cell phone calls and those who don’t – and, again, picking a particular section would likely result in a fee. By not letting airlines dictate these rules for themselves, the DOT would be cutting off a whole new potential revenue stream!

So, with that in mind, I say to the DOT: please, please regulate in-flight cell phone calls. By making the airlines enforce your rules, you protect customers from being charged for new “services,” and also keep our plane rides as close to enjoyable as possible. At least, that’s how I see it.

For now, there doesn’t seem to be any projected date for when the DOT might make a new rule. For now, though, the FAA has kept its in-flight call ban in place. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep flying the silent skies here in the US.

[Source: Wall Street Journal]

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