GOP lawmakers look to ban in-flight cell phone calls

Caroline May | Reporter

With the Federal Communications Commission considering lifting the ban on in-flight cell-phone calls, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster announced Monday a bill to pre-empt the possibility.

“For passengers, being able to use their phones and tablets to get online or send text messages is a useful in-flight option,” Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, said announcing his bill to prohibit in-flight cell phone communications on commercial flights. “But if passengers are going to be forced to listen to the gossip in the aisle seat, it’s going to make for a very long flight.”

Shuster’s bill, “Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Mobile Wireless Devices Act of 2013,” would prohibit all passengers from speaking on their cell phones while in flight.

Those exempt from the prohibition include on-duty members of the flight crew and on-duty federal law enforcement officers.

“Let’s face it, airplane cabins are by nature noisy, crowded and confined,” Shuster said.  “For the most part, passengers are looking for ways to make their flights go by as quickly and quietly as possible.  Pilots and flight attendants are focused on ensuring a safe and comfortable flight for everyone onboard.”

In October the Federal Aviation Administration lifted the ban on the use of portable electronic devices during take off and landing, with cell phones put in “airplane mode” while in flight.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote Thursday on the use of cell phones in flight, with a public comment period to follow, according to The Hill. The agency stressed that it would be up to the airlines as to whether to allow customers to make calls while in the air.

Last month Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander announced that he too would introduce legislation, if it got to that point, to prevent in-flight cell phone conversations.

“Imagine two million passengers, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts,” Alexander said in late November. “The Transportation Security Administration would have to hire three times as many air marshals to deal with the fistfights.”

“Stop and think about what we hear now in airport lobbies from those who wander around shouting personal details into a microphone: babbling about last night’s love life, bathroom plans, next week’s schedule, orders to an assistant, arguments with spouses. Imagine this noise while you travel, restrained by your seatbelt, unable to escape,” Alexander added.

Like Alexander, Shuster added that he would really prefer not to have to listen to other people’s conversations.

“For those few hours in the air with 150 other people, it’s just common sense that we all keep our personal lives to ourselves and stay off the phone,” Shuster said.

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Tags : federal aviation administration federal communications commission lamar alexander
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