FCC should leave the in-flight cellphone ban in place

Published Nov 27, 2013 at 5:29 am (Updated Nov 25, 2013 at 11:33 am)

In a move that has the nation talking – pun intended – the Federal Communications Commission is considering lifting the ban of making cell phone calls during flights. In a statement released by the FCC on Nov. 21, Chairman Tom Wheeler is quoted as saying, “Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules.”

This comes on the heels of the Federal Aviation Administration allowing passengers to keep electronic devices on during takeoff and landing. The proposal will be discussed at the FCC’s Dec. 12 meeting, and, if passed, it will be up to individual airlines to decide on their policies.

It’s no surprise that wireless carriers are for changing the policy, as they will be able to profit with an increased use of roaming rates.

The Association of Flight Attendants union is opposed to lifting the ban, citing safety and security issues, particularly during emergency situations. Likewise, many airlines, including Delta, Southwest and Virgin America, will keep the ban in place even if it is lifted by the FCC – and they are right to do so.

Other airlines, including JetBlue, are discussing the option of designated areas in the plane to make calls.

In an era of constant communication, we cannot see a situation where a phone call cannot wait a couple of hours. Allowing passengers to talk during flights will do nothing but create unnecessary noise, and could likely trigger arguments – imagine trying to nap or read while the person next to you incessantly chats away. There’s no doubt that people will make calls that aren’t urgent or pressing – just look at the amount of people who get on the phone mere seconds after they are permitted to after landing.

The fact that there are so many other ways to communicate – social media, text, email being just a few – further solidifies the argument that the phone call can wait.

And for so many, those few hours in the air, with a cellphone turned off, are a welcome respite from an otherwise, way too connected world.

Hopefully, the FCC will make the right choice on Dec. 12.

After all, we’ve survived without making in-flight phone calls for decades.

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