Exactly three weeks after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced it was considering lifting rules on the use of electronic devices during most stages of flights, the FCC has revealed that it is considering allowing cell phone use during flights — something the FAA had specifically said it would continue to prohibit.
The new rule would allow cell phone calls above 10,000 feet, while still prohibiting use during take-off and landing. Tom Wheeler — the new head of the FCC and known for his more liberal approach to the rules that have been in place for consumers with regard to communications technology — is championing this proposed change in legislation for in-flight cell phone use.
Of course, his claim that the rules prohibiting cell phone calls during flight are outdated has been met with much criticism from airlines themselves facing new costs and consumers wishing to be spared the phone conversations of densely-packed passengers. Petitions and protest have already been made to the Obama administration asking for a halt to the legislative overhaul of in-flight technology use.
But the FCC is challenging the previously-believed tech obstacles themselves, regardless of consumer desire to talk on the phone or not during flights. The previously projected interference from radio signals generated from phones has been proven to have no impact on a pilot’s ability to operate a plane, and therefore pointless to regulate (if the motive is safety, at least) aboard flights.
Such a change for the airline industry would require a few further alterations including hardware restructuring of wireless capabilities of planes themselves, but perhaps new business opportunity lies here as well: Will carriers vie to partner with certain airlines? Will data plans change with pricing to allow access to wireless networks in-flight? Will “cell phone” and “non-cell phone” seating sections of airplanes result? Despite the confusing backtracking of the FCC and all the concerns that consumers will have a new set of neighborly problems aboard flights, the overhaul of the 20-year prohibition will have some interesting effects on the industry.