The House Transportation Committee has approved a bill that would ban passengers from talking on their cellphones in flight. The bill, which still must be debated by the full House, would ban only voice communications and would allow passengers to text, go online and email while on aircraft. A similar bill has also been proposed in the Senate. In an op-ed article in The Hill on Monday, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said the closed quarters of an airplane cabin force people to become involuntary eavesdroppers on the private conversations of others and they shouldn’t have to put up with it. “Usually, when we find ourselves forced to eavesdrop on a phone conversation thats too loud, too close, or too personal, we can just walk away,” he wrote. “However, for an airline passenger, walking away is not an option. When flying at 30,000 feet, theres nowhere else to go.”
Shuster introduced the bill last December after the FCC proposed scrapping the current ban on the use of cellphones on aircraft. The ban was originally imposed to protect the terrestrial cell networks from being overloaded by signals emanating from above but the FCC says modern networks can’t be affected that way. Although surveys show widespread support for making smartphone users let their fingers do the talking, there are some opponents. Mark Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute said the market should decide whether in-flight cellphone calls are appropriate. He noted that the bill will not prohibit the use of seatback Airfone systems offered on a few airlines. He said it should be up to the airlines to decide whether or not they’ll allow cellphone calling on their aircraft.