FCC starts the process toward allowing in-flight calls; DOT must agree
In fact, the vote Thursday merely allows for a public discussion on whether the FCC should change the technical ban on inflight calls. The public will be asked to comment on two matters. One is whether the current ban on inflight calls should continue and whether it should be expanded to all frequencies like Wi-Fi. The second part is whether the airlines should provide a mobile signal to passengers to use for calls, that can be controlled by the airlines.
With many worried about how noisy an airplane will be with calls potentially being made from every seat, Wheeler said that the FCC is not the Federal Courtesy Commission. In other words, dealing with complaints from passengers unable to relax on a flight because of loud phone calls is not the issue that the FCC is charged with deciding. "The FCC is the expert agency when it comes to technical communications issues," said Wheeler. "We are not the Federal Courtesy Commission. Our mandate from Congress is to oversee how networks function." The FCC Chairman went on to add, "I do not want the person in the seat next to me yapping at 35,000 feet any more than anyone else."
The DOT has oversight over the FAA and it is the FAA's decision as to which devices are allowed to be used on a plane. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said on Thursday that the agency is deciding whether allowing phone calls to be made on a flight is fair to consumers, or if they should remain banned., So far, there is no word on when we can expect the DOT and the FAA to make a final decision.