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FCC may lift ban on in-flight cell use

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The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to consider lifting the ban on in-flight cell phone use reported CNN on December 13, 2013.

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FCC commissioners voted 3-2 to allow public comment on the proposal to allow the use of cell phones when flying. The ban on cell phone use while flying on commercial airlines was instituted 22 years ago.

The FCC banned cell phone use when flying in 1991 due to concerns that cell phone signals could interfere with aircraft navigational systems and communication from control towers.

While the FCC was considering lifting the ban on in-flight calls, some members of congress and the federal Department of Transportation attempted to keep the ban in place.

In a statement issued by Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, the Transportation Department may consider banning in-flight cell phone calls to protect passengers.

"Over the past few weeks, we have heard of concerns raised by airlines, travelers, flight attendants, members of Congress and others who are all troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cell phones in flight -- and I am concerned about this possibility, as well," Foxx said.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler who supports lifting the ban released a statement.

"I'm the last person in the world who wants to listen to someone talking to me while I fly across the country," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler -- who proposed the change -- told a congressional panel Thursday. "But we are the technical agency, and we will make the rules for the way the new technology works."

"The proposal would not require airlines to either install such equipment, or to offer mobile wireless services aboard their aircraft" he said. "Airlines would be free, within the confines of the rules of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT), to make their own decisions. We simply propose that because new technology makes the old rule obsolete the FCC should get government out from between airlines and their passengers."

Three members of Congress have put political differences aside to join forces in support of keeping the in-flight cell phone use ban in place.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) introduced a bill on Thursday banning cell phone use on commercial aircraft. House Rep. Bill Shuster, (R-Pennsylvania) introduced legislation restricting cell phone use while flying but permitting the use of text messaging.
Flight attendant groups also want to keep the ban in place.

"As the last line of defense in our nation's aviation system, flight attendants understand the importance of maintaining a calm cabin environment, and passengers agree," said Association of Flight Attendants president Veda Shook, in a statement.

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