The report that the FCC might consider dropping the restrictions on in-flight cellphone calls
has left a split public with many celebrating the possibility of being able to call family, friends, and the office while in flight. The rest of the public sees this as terrible, noisy chatter that will turn a relaxing flight into an hours long headache (although to be fair, the airlines have been known to do that all by themselves).
On Thursday, when the FCC revealed that it was considering a proposal to lift the ban on cellular calls and the use of mobile data once a plane levels off at 10,000 feet, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was bubbling over the possibilities of removing what he called "outdated and restrictive rules
". But by Friday, Wheeler had changed his mind. "We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself
," said the agency's head honcho.
This was a typical CYA maneuver by a Washington insider who apparently miscalculated the public's response. Keep in mind that the FCC proposal does not force the airlines to offer connectivity to those flying. If the proposal makes it through, it will be up to each airline to determine its own policy on allowing passengers to use their cellphones for calls and to access mobile data at 10,000 feet.
"We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself. Ultimately, if the FCC adopts the proposal in the coming months, it will be airlines’decisions, in consultation with their customers, as to whether to permit voice calls while airborne...we believe that airlines are best positioned to make such decisions. For this reason, our proposal does not impose any requirement that airlines should provide voice connectivity. We encourage airlines, pilots, flight attendants, and the public to engage in our upcoming rulemaking process."-Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman