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United States Cellphones Transportation

FCC To Consider Cellphone Use On Planes 183

Posted by samzenpus
from the leave-your-electronic-devices-on dept.
aitikin writes "The Federal Communications Commission is expected to propose allowing passengers to use their cellphones on airplanes. While phone use would still be restricted during takeoff and landing, the proposal would lift an FCC ban on airborne calls and cellular data use by passengers once a flight reaches 10,000 feet. From the article: 'The move would lift a regulatory hurdle, but any use of cellphones on planes would still have to be approved by the airlines, which have said they would approach the issue cautiously due to strong objections from their customers. Airlines would have to install equipment in their planes that would communicate with cellphone towers on the ground.'"
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FCC To Consider Cellphone Use On Planes

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  • please don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheMeuge (645043) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @07:50PM (#45486729)

    I think this would lead to in-flight homicide.

    • Re: please don't (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrKaos (858439) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @08:25PM (#45486935) Journal

      I think this would lead to in-flight homicide.

      I can imagine a situation where someone who can't exert any impulse control gets on a mobile phone while the rest of the cabin is trying to sleep, a very real risk of on-board assaults from tired and frustrated travelers.

      • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @08:49PM (#45487089)

        The real risk is that the plane is full of polite British travellers who are too reserved to punch the caller and instead just tut noisily for 12 hours.

        The safety demonstration needs to include a demonstration of how to safely and effectively disable the goatfucker who takes out his 'phone. Perhaps it could include step-by-step advice on how to break the equipment without causing a fire hazard by piercing the li-ion battery.

      • by icebike (68054)

        Well if the on-board femtocell repeaters work well enough, you won't have people shouting into their phones, other than to overcome cabin/engine noise. I could see requiring earbuds, (and who wouldn't want that anyway).
        With ear buds, you can carry on a conversation just as quietly as talking between people sitting adjacent.

        But it requires a good connection. I rather suspect the airlines will put in repeaters than promptly price it out of most people's comfort zone.

        The most annoying thing would be people p

        • by Cyberax (705495)
          A lot of people ALWAYS scream into mobile phones. I _know_ that I can whisper into the microphone and it will be picked up just fine, but lots of people seem to think that you have to speak LOUDLY.
          • by icebike (68054)

            Its because you are having trouble hearing.
            I once had an employee who talked at the top of his lungs on the phone, land line.
            I ordered him an amplify phone receiver, and the difference was like night an day. He was slowly going deaf, and didn't realize it.

            If planes required ear buds, there would be a lot more peaceful flights. But you know that won't happen.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by tlhIngan (30335)

          Well if the on-board femtocell repeaters work well enough, you won't have people shouting into their phones, other than to overcome cabin/engine noise. I could see requiring earbuds, (and who wouldn't want that anyway).
          With ear buds, you can carry on a conversation just as quietly as talking between people sitting adjacent.

          It doesn't matter how good the connection is - idiots still SHOUT INTO THEIR PHONES for whatever reason. Either they have poor volume control (and never developed their "inside voice") or

        • by gtall (79522)

          Yeah, that's exactly why I get on a plane, to have an unending conversation with my seat mates and allow them to honk on about anything that goes pop in their brains. Forget it.

        • by Entropius (188861)

          Even with a perfect link cell connections are shit. Compare what your cellphone sounds like to Speex 16kbps; it's remarkable.

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            Even with a perfect link cell connections are shit. Compare what your cellphone sounds like to Speex 16kbps; it's remarkable.

            It better be when Speex gets 4x the bandwidth of GSM compressed voice (which really only gets around 2.4-4kbps). It's also why they quantize the hell out of the speech and filter the audio - I think the voice filters are actually narrower than a landline.

      • Re: please don't (Score:5, Insightful)

        by causality (777677) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @09:01PM (#45487175)

        I think this would lead to in-flight homicide.

        I can imagine a situation where someone who can't exert any impulse control gets on a mobile phone while the rest of the cabin is trying to sleep, a very real risk of on-board assaults from tired and frustrated travelers.

        If I were on the jury I'd refuse to convict those guilty of assault, provided they used no (improvised) weapons and stopped once their point had been made.

        It's a shitty sign of the times that, so often, you can no longer politely ask someone to stop being annoying. They'll get "offended" and belligerent instead of being enough of a person to recognize that you had cause. Accepting a legitimate and polite correction is now viewed as a sign of weakness or submission. That's the cause of a great deal of violence, in fact nearly all violence that is not state-sponsored.

        The social fabric is currently as unsustainable as the financial edifice of society. It makes me wonder if it will change course. What you said about impulse control has everything to do with having a little discipline and personal responsibility (it wouldn't take much). These things aren't "fun" or "entertaining" to acquire so more and more people can't be bothered. Am I alone in witnessing how tragic this is? Assholes with phones here, idiots gathering to chat and blocking doorways there, someone running off the road (or over the median) because their call or burger or makeup is more important to them elsewhere -- these little things are merely symptoms.

        • by MrKaos (858439)

          If I were on the jury I'd refuse to convict those guilty of assault, provided they used no (improvised) weapons and stopped once their point had been made.

          It's like people who fly while they have the flu, is their trip so important that they have to infect a whole cabin packed full of people so they can suffer to.

          It's a shitty sign of the times that, so often, you can no longer politely ask someone to stop being annoying. They'll get "offended" and belligerent instead of being enough of a person to recogn

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        well just about every plane I've been on already has expensive calling options..

        just don't fly domestic(roaming is friggin expensive too, especially if you don't know when you're switching to roaming since the call is on..)

      • "you see officer, he started fiddling with an electronic device which stores enough power to threaten the aircraft's integrity. We had to stop him"

    • Re:please don't (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @10:25PM (#45487693)

      And you'd be wrong. Seriously America is behind the times on the issue. I've taken several international flights where cellphone use was permitted and a) it didn't lead to endless chatting due to obscene international roaming calls, and b) if someone was on the phone more than 2-3 seats away you couldn't hear them anyway over the noise of the engines.

      • by dysmal (3361085)
        I have full confidence in my fellow Americans to exercise their right to be an asshat at 30,000 feet. If people can't stay off the phone at the movie theater, what makes anyone think they'll be considerate of those that surround them in "cattle class" on planes?
      • by BitZtream (692029)

        So basically, you don't have issues with cell phones on flights because your cell phone providers are so ridiculously over price that its a non-starter.

        We don't have your roaming issue. You can be on a jet aircraft for 8 hours here and never leave your home area. There are no roaming fees in our country, which is likely larger than your entire continent.

        God I wish you European fucks would stop trying to compare yourselves to the way things are in North America. We have freaking counties larger than some

      • US phone plans typically have no roaming charges over the 48 states - it's easy to spend six hours in the air with no cost increase for cell phone use, and thus no deterrent to yacking.

        In Europe, it's hard to take a flight over an hour without crossing an international border.

    • by morgauxo (974071)

      How about data allowed, voice not. That would probably make more sense as a rule of the airline, not something for the FCC to mandate.

    • by morgauxo (974071)

      Funny, people's cellphone use doesn't really seem that annoying on a train...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    *ringtone*
    *pulls out GIANT brick phone*

    What!?!

    No!!!!

    I'm on an airplane!!!!

    I'm on an airplane!!!!

    No!!!

    What?!?!?!?

    I'm on an airplane!!!!

    Yes, an airplane!!!

    No, I can talk!!!!

    What?!?!?!?!

    No, I can talk!!!!

  • HELLO? (Score:5, Funny)

    by bitt3n (941736) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @07:57PM (#45486779)

    HELLO! GLADYS? I'M ON THE PLANE! I CAN SEE CLOUDS! ONE LOOKS LIKE A RUTABAGA! DO YOU THINK THAT MEANS ANYTHING? SO HOW WAS YOUR DAY? WAIT SOMEONE NEXT TO ME IS TRYING TO GET MY ATTENTION. EXCUSE ME CAN'T YOU SEE I'M ON THE PHONE? HOW RUDE!

    great, now I have to bypass the yelling filter... sdlfjals;kdfjakl; sklsfdlkas; lsdksdk lsk dslk sdl ksdlk; dsl;sd ldslklsd klds;l dsl;k ksdkl;sdlkdskl; sd;klsdk l; sdkllks;d skdl; skldkl;ds k;ldskldsklsfjlskdfk sdl lks dklds lks;dlk ds ;klsdlk dsdkls slkldkslk;d;klsdkl dsl;skd l;kds ksdl; sdkldslk sldk;l kdsk;lsd lkkl;ds ds ;klsd kl;kdsl; k;ldsksd kl k;sdkl;sl;kd klsd;lkds l;kdslk sd;lkk; lsd;lkds l;ksd;klds ;klsdkldsl;k sd ;lksd ;klsd l;ksdl;k sd lk;dsl ;ksdl ;kds l;kds l;kdskl ;sdklsd k;l;sdkl;klsd;klsd kl;ds k;lds; lksdkl; ds;kl sdkl ;sdl ksd klsd; lkdsk ldsklsd;lkds ;lkds ;lkds ;klds; lksd;kl

  • Bus (Score:2, Insightful)

    by profplump (309017)

    Cell phone use is allowed on busses (metro and inter-city), and it doesn't seem to be a huge problem there. Why should I assume that planes would be significantly worse?

    • Verbal diarrhea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mister Liberty (769145) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @08:15PM (#45486873)

      Cell phones not a problem on busses and trains?
      Have you ever took a train during rush hour?
      Terror right there.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Have you ever took a train during rush hour?

        *taken. Granted, your grammar is still better than most of those talking on phones in public.

    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      You can change your seat on the Bus and you don't typically ride the bus for 4 hours.

      There are two VERY big reasons. I don't want to sit next to a guy discussing his hemorrhoid problem with his wife (or having a shouting argument with her) when I can't get away from him.

      • by profplump (309017)

        Says a man who has obviously never take a bus from Minneapolis to St. Louis -- 18 hours over 3 buses, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder the whole way with no more freedom to move around than you'd have in a plane.

        And that's not even a long bus trip.

        • by neonmonk (467567)

          Yes it is.

        • by xaxa (988988)

          Says a man who has obviously never take a bus from Minneapolis to St. Louis -- 18 hours over 3 buses, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder the whole way with no more freedom to move around than you'd have in a plane.

          And that's not even a long bus trip.

          That is a very, very long bus trip by the standards of almost all the world.

          A short bus trip is the one I'm late for: 12 minutes to get to work.

          The longest trip I've ever made by bus was about 10 hours.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      On the bus, you can get up and take another seat away from the asshole with the phone.

  • Airlines will love this. Even at $1/minute, passengers will rake up pretty good bills by the end of the flight. And I doubt they will stop at a buck a minute, because above 10k feet, well, they got you by the balls.

    Actually I wouldn't be surprised if the airline mafia were behind this, with large paychecks for the FCC officials who push this through.
    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      Airlines will love this. Even at $1/minute, passengers will rake up pretty good bills by the end of the flight. And I doubt they will stop at a buck a minute, because above 10k feet, well, they got you by the balls.

      Many airlines already have phones installed in the backs of seats that passengers can use, and have for some time now. You pay for them by credit card. In the countless times I have flown I have yet to see someone actually use them. I can assure you the airlines have not been raking in the money with that.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Airlines will love this. Even at $1/minute, passengers will rake up pretty good bills by the end of the flight. And I doubt they will stop at a buck a minute, because above 10k feet, well, they got you by the balls.

        Many airlines already have phones installed in the backs of seats that passengers can use, and have for some time now. You pay for them by credit card. In the countless times I have flown I have yet to see someone actually use them. I can assure you the airlines have not been raking in the money with that.

        Yes, but the psychology is different.

        With the existing phones you have to physically pay before hand. It doesn't matter what the cost is, having to shell out coin before hand is a serious psychological block.

        Now if you allow people to use their own phones, even if it's at a higher cost (roaming charges) people wont think about the cost because they dont have to pay it up front. Instead they'll just bitch about "bill shock" when they receive a $1400 mobile phone bill from making phone calls through out

      • by petman (619526) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @09:46PM (#45487447)
        The phones on the backs of seats can only be used to make, not receive, calls. OTOH, with cellphones, the airlines can impose a surcharge for both outgoing and incoming calls, much like with carrier roaming. There's also data roaming. So yes, the airlines to stand to make big bucks on this if they play it right.
      • by isorox (205688)

        Airlines will love this. Even at $1/minute, passengers will rake up pretty good bills by the end of the flight. And I doubt they will stop at a buck a minute, because above 10k feet, well, they got you by the balls.

        Many airlines already have phones installed in the backs of seats that passengers can use, and have for some time now. You pay for them by credit card. In the countless times I have flown I have yet to see someone actually use them. I can assure you the airlines have not been raking in the money with that.

        Well I have used them, they're fine for a quick call, but they're hard to hear over the low quality and loud engines.

        BA have phased them out on the new planes, and turned them off about a year ago on the old planes.

        But then I remember flying back in 2008 on TAP when in flight mobiles were allowed. The problem wasn't people talking, it was the teenagers who didn't know how to put their text message tone on "silent"

    • by isorox (205688)

      Airlines will love this. Even at $1/minute, passengers will rake up pretty good bills by the end of the flight. And I doubt they will stop at a buck a minute, because above 10k feet, well, they got you by the balls.

      Actually I wouldn't be surprised if the airline mafia were behind this, with large paychecks for the FCC officials who push this through.

      I don't know about US plans, but typical intercontinental roaming rates for UK phone contracts are well above $2 a minute, nearer $3.

  • by ad454 (325846) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @08:17PM (#45486897)

    There was never any safety issues with using a cell phone anytime during flight. If there was, don't you think that planes would be dropping like flies from every nutcase and terrorist turing on (or leaving on) their cell phones?

    It was disallowed because it cut into airline revenue from expensive airplane to satellite phones. However now that airlines are deploying micro-cells, with huge roaming fees, guess with, its now magically time to remove cell phone restrictions. But only when the planes are above 10000 feet, in order to allow these micro-cells to override ground based cell towers, and insure roaming revenue.

    Below 10000 feet, the in-flight cell phone ban must remain in place, since it is much easier to bypass the micro-cells in planes and connect directly (and cheaply) to a ground based cell towers.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      But only when the planes are above 10000 feet, in order to allow these micro-cells to override ground based cell towers, and insure roaming revenue.

      Below 10000 feet, the in-flight cell phone ban must remain in place, since it is much easier to bypass the micro-cells in planes and connect directly (and cheaply) to a ground based cell towers.

      Or, you know, the aircraft is still climbing and is therefore more likely to encounter problems. Fewer distractions means the passengers can listen to crew instructions instead of posting last minute "OMG I'm gonna die!" selfies to Instagram. 10k feet is cruising altitude, and is also when passengers are allowed to move around (and also when flight crew starts moving around as well-they stay seated as well during climbing/descending).

      • by tompaulco (629533)

        10k feet is cruising altitude

        Looks like we're going to need a bigger plane. The only planes that would be cruising at 10k feet would be non-pressurized ones. Even on a short hop, a jet is going to be cruising at least 25,000 feet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Ichijo (607641)

      It's an example of the wealthy oppressing the poor, like laws that prohibit crossing the street between intersections even when it doesn't violate any vehicle's right of way. Or laws that require bicyclists to stick to the right edge of the roadway when other slow-moving vehicles don't have to.

    • If you think it's easy to connect a call at 9500 feet, you're high.

      Also cellphones distract people way more than talking in person - and we don't want 300 people distracted during take-off and landing, just in case there are hiccups.

      Finally, it's the worst time for something to go wrong. So, while modern planes shouldn't have a problem with calls being made/received, you still want to check.

      • I connect all the time at 9500 feet. Maybe because I live in Cripple Creek, CO.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        just in case there are hiccups.

        This sort of thing keeps coming up, but its a stupid statement.

        You know what you, as a passenger get to do when the aircraft has issues on its climb out? If the pilot can't solve them on his own, you die. Thats what happens.

        Nothing they are going to tell you is going to save your life if they're telling you on the climb out when the shit goes down. Its already too late. You'd be much better off not knowing whats going on and being in a state of ignorant bliss.

    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @10:40PM (#45487757)

      It was disallowed because it cut into airline revenue from expensive airplane to satellite phones.

      Sorry to spoil your capitalist conspiracy but it was banned due to the technical issues around the air interface. Specifically Cell Reselection became a major headache where the signal would rapidly hop from one tower to the other. Changing cells presents quite a burden on the infrastructure as calls are re-routed and resources are allocated. A plane full of talking phones while flying over a city will very quickly lead to dropped calls as 15 subscribers bounce to a cell at the same time and then move on seconds later.

      Then there's also issues regarding the radio signal itself. There's cells on the market specifically intended to be installed on high-speed rail lines. They throw most other requirements out the window in favour of high gain and directionality (reduce the number of handovers required in a trip), and using fancy patented radio voodoo to get the GSM to work at a speed higher than 250km/h.

      See for a long time you couldn't use your phone on a high-speed rail either. Well it wasn't banned, but it just plain didn't work for more than a few seconds at a time.
      The existence of micro-cells and re-routing calls via satellite overcomes these technical hurdles.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Sorry to spoil your capitalist conspiracy but it was banned due to the technical issues around the air interface. Specifically Cell Reselection became a major headache where the signal would rapidly hop from one tower to the other.

        Sorry to spoil your ignorance, but that hasn't been a problem in 15 years.

        Whats more, all the existing data links in aircraft ... use cellular. New Boeing and Airbus aircraft have their own cell phone number for fucks sake. GoGo inflight wifi? Cellular.

        This DoS attack against the cell system was solved before phones where '1g', let alone anything digital or anything modern.

  • If you consider it when a cellular phone is in the air it is an equal distance from several towers, so it is effectively difficult for the telcos to bill the users properly and the airline to get a cut - so tell people it's a safety issue and they can't use it. More likely the safety issues, which bring an airline down because of on-board mobile phone use are yet to be discovered.

    Just hope I'm not on the aircraft that reveals the problem.

    • If you consider it when a cellular phone is in the air it is an equal distance from several towers, so it is effectively difficult for the telcos to bill the users properly and the airline to get a cut - so tell people it's a safety issue and they can't use it. More likely the safety issues, which bring an airline down because of on-board mobile phone use are yet to be discovered.

      Just hope I'm not on the aircraft that reveals the problem.

      That was one of the rumors as to why the ban went into effect in the first place, "Big Telco" didn't like it. Never saw anything factual to support that theory,* just what people were saying, even the owners of the cell phone store where I worked briefly in the 1990s.

      *Not that it can't be true, I just never saw any documentation supporting it, and I never really looked.

  • I've been hearing this for DECADES and it never happens.
    • by isorox (205688)

      I've been hearing this for DECADES and it never happens.

      Choose a different carrier if you're that bothered. Emirates offer it on 300 flights a day.

  • I am calling all scientists out there to fudge their data and show that the moment a call exceeds 30 seconds that the plane is more likely to crash than not. Can you imagine an 8 hour flight beside some bubble brain blabbing the whole time on their phone:

    "Mary said, to John that I told Sue what Jane said about Mark... Yeah I would so love to get high with him. Did you see what Mary was wearing at John's on Friday, I wouldn't be caught dead in that, it is sooooo 2012. I gave my phone to this geeky neighbo
  • >Airlines would have to install equipment in their planes that would communicate with cellphone towers on the ground.

    How those people aboard the doomed aircraft on Sept 11 were all able to make phone calls again?

    • by isorox (205688)

      >Airlines would have to install equipment in their planes that would communicate with cellphone towers on the ground.

      How those people aboard the doomed aircraft on Sept 11 were all able to make phone calls again?

      By flying low. I rarely get a signal above 10k foot, and have never managed to get one above 20k foot.

  • by maiden_taiwan (516943) * on Thursday November 21, 2013 @11:15PM (#45487941)

    Them: "Mind if I yak on my cellphone in this enclosed space?"
    You: "Mind if I fart?"

  • by gaiageek (1070870) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @11:29PM (#45487987) Homepage
    The FCC making it legal is one thing. Airlines allowing it is another. Given the overwhelmingly negative response I've seen on this so far today, I think it's pretty safe to say that any airline that decided to allow passengers to make calls on their phones would risk losing business -- especially the business of frequent flyers. People who fly a lot tend to be quite familiar with the annoyances of flying, so why would they want to fly an airline that potentially adds another?

    What I haven't seen mentioned is whether you'd have to pay a premium for such calls. Assuming you have to pay cruise ship rates (over $2 a minute), that would definitely discourage people from making long chit-chat phone calls to pass the time of their flight. Likewise, I'm sure a time limit on calls could be easily implemented. With such conditions in place, I'd probably be ok with it, and I'd certainly appreciate it if I was ever in a situation where I really needed to make a phone call en route to my destination.
  • People act like the FCC and.or FAA changing things will be the end of the world. These changes won't prevent airlines from acting their own policies, and odds are they will have their own rules... and why the hell would you want the FCC governing this - and not the airlines?
  • What we really need is something that will make flights more annoying, more loud, more horrible to sit through. Just turn the phone off, you don't need to be one it and just relax until you get to your destination.
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@NospAm.keirstead.org> on Friday November 22, 2013 @07:29AM (#45489651) Homepage

    You know, a lot of people in here are complaining about in-flight cell use being annoying. But we have had in-flight wifi for awhile now, and you can use the phone over that service any number of ways. Is that being abused?

    TO me, the solution is simple.. you enable the access, but you disallow people from making or taking voice calls via simple airline policy. Text only. This allows people to use their own text and data plans and keeps the annoyance factor to the same level as wifi.

  • I flew on American Airlines last week (after the recent relaxation of in-flight electronics rules). They offered WiFi on the plane for 'a nominal fee', but specifically prohibited VOIP and other phonecall-like behavior.

    I HOPE that sets a precedent - I REALLY do not want to be on a plane with cell phone yakkers.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      And did this plane have phones in the back of the seat in front of you, that they had no problem if you used while paying a ridiculously high rate?

      They aren't trying to stop you from making a call, they're trying to force you to make the call through their service in order to collect ridiculous fees. The nice side effect is that those ridiculous fees keep almost everyone from doing it. But make no mistake, its all about the money from the airlines perspective.

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)

        And did this plane have phones in the back of the seat in front of you ...

        No, it did not. In fact, I can't remember the last time I saw a 'flight phone' in a seat. I think most airlines have ripped those out in favor of 'entertainment centers'.

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