FCC May Let Airplane Passengers Chat On The Phone In Flight

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Look out, Henry Blodget. The skies might get a bit more uncomfortable.

The WSJ reports that airplane passengers may be allowed to use their cellphones, for both data and voice transmissions, based on a recent FCC proposal.

But before you begin having nightmares of college kids on their Thanksgiving trips settling in for a long, petname-filled conversation with their sweeties, it’s not so bad.

For one, the FCC decides what’s allowable for the airlines themselves, but each airline has the right to make their own rules within FCC regulation. In other words, specific airlines may ban the use of smartphones/cell phones during flight despite any FCC ruling.

Secondly, it requires the installation of new technology aboard the airplanes that allow them to communicate with cell towers far below. This will take quite some time to implement, and that’s after the months it takes to approve a proposal like this, plus the time it would take for this new technology to be approved by the FCC.

According to the WSJ, wireless communication aboard airplanes is already in existence and use internationally but not permissible in the United States.

The question is no longer about safety, but social prerogative. A lot has changed since 2007.

An FAA study showed that 51 percent of adults aren’t so keen on in-flight phone calls with 47 percent reacting positively (out of 1,600 people, mind you). But airlines seem less divided, with many of them citing consumer feedback against the use of voice during flights.