FCC votes to consider lifting cell phone ban

DOT taking steps to block cellphone usage in aircraft

Author: Scott Johnson, General assignment reporter, sjohnson@wjxt.com
Elizabeth Berry, Evening assignment manager, beth@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 12 2013 10:13:34 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 13 2013 12:01:00 AM EST
Phone on plane
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The FCC voted 3-2 on Thursday to consider lifting its ban on in flight cell phone use, despite polling that shows many Americans don't support the idea.

"Not a huge fan of that, I can speak for most travelers. Don't want to have someone yapping in your ear. Doesn't make flying experience too enjoyable," said Jason Mobley.

"Well, if I'm working, it would be good. Depends on price, at $16 a minute probably wouldn't be worth it," said Jim Warren.

Channel 4 found, mixed reviews on the idea of allowing cell phone calls on flights when I spoke with passengers. Channel 4 spoke with a long-time and now former flight attendant who doesn't think it’s a good idea.

"Already you're putting people in a pressurized metal tube for long amount of time, and tensions can rise during that time," said former flight attendant, Lindsay Ott.

Ott said she also used to lobby on behalf of a flight attendant's union, fighting against allowing cell calls on flights for years. She told Channel 4 she doesn't trust the FCC's contention that cell usage is totally safe.

"While some airlines might have wires to block interference, older fleets and smaller airlines, they don't have money to take steps to make cell phones safe on airplanes," said Ott.

The push comes weeks after the FCC lifted restrictions on electronics devices like iPads below 10,000 feet. Now, the FCC is pushing for cell usage, despite pushback from members of congress and even the us department of transportation who don't feel it's for the best.

"I fly a lot. I am a regular resident of the last row and middle seat," said FCC Commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel. "I know what it is like to have the person in front of you pop their seat back, leaving you scrambling to hold onto your drink, hold onto your reading material, and hold on to some semblance of peace. It is not easy. This commission does not need to add to that burden. I for one will not."

"But where there is new on-board technology that eliminates that potential for interference, then there is no need for an interference rule. This is the responsible thing to do. Where the rationale for a rule doesn't exit, the rule shouldn't exist," said FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler.

A big reason for this push is calls are already allowed on a lot of international flights and some flights have no call zones when they enter U.S. air space.

Debate on the issue will continue throughout the month. If it's eventually adopted it won't be instituted until well into 2014.