FCC To Propose Cell Phone Use On Planes

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The Federal Communications Commission will reportedly propose lifting a ban on passenger use of cellular phone use — both for voice and data connections — above 10,000 feet. Doing so would shift the approval decision to airlines, which would still be restricted from offering that utility while their aircraft operate below 10,000 feet. The FCC has made similar proposals twice before. In 2004 the FCC received thousands of comments to a proposal and a 2007 proposal was withdrawn amid strong objections from flight attendants and passenger groups. A 2012 study offered technical findings that may now lend more support to a change. The issue is now poised to see discussion again this December.

In 2012, an FAA study found “no confirmed occurrences of cell phones affecting flight safety on aircraft with on-board cellular telephone base stations.” An FCC meeting in December will address the issue. If the matter proceeds it will need to clear the hurdle of the Notice of Proposed Rule Making process, which will solicit public comment. That means there will be no action for several months, no matter what transpires. Some carriers are already equipped with technology that allows cellphone use on aircraft, but due to the existing FCC ban, those carriers must turn off their systems when entering or operating in U.S. airspace.