US Government Expected To Ban In-Flight Cell Phone Calls Soon

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Passengers on a Plane
An Australian fan sleeps on board a flight travelling from Brasilia to Cuiaba on June 11, 2014.

The U.S. government is expected to pass a law that will disallow the practice of making calls from cell phones on airplanes even as carriers are demanding the right to have the final say on the subject, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

According to the report, Kathryn Thomson, general counsel at the U.S. Department of Transportation, or DOT, said last week at the International Aviation Club in Washington that the government is getting closer to formally banning in-flight phone calls. The report cited a spokeswoman as saying that the department is working on "a notice of proposed rulemaking," which could be published in December.

The Journal also cited a regulatory filing, saying that the government would seek comments from the industry and travelers before making a final ruling.

In December, the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, proposed overturning technical rules that prohibit people from making in-flight calls, arguing that ground-based cellular networks no longer hinder the functioning of airplanes' communication systems.

While DOT requested comments from the public and industry on in-flight cell phone use in February, Anthony Foxx, the U.S. secretary of transportation, had also voiced his support for DOT’s stance on in-flight calls, saying that passengers and flight crew too are against the use of mobile phones to make phone calls from inside airplanes.

Meanwhile, airlines, which believe offering in-flight cell phone service would require installing new technology, have said that the transportation department is interfering with their work, and that the carriers should be allowed to decide whether or not to offer the service on board.

"Airlines aren't clamoring to allow mobile phone use during flight, and some have already said they'd prohibit it on their own flights," Jeffrey Shane, general counsel for the International Air Transport Association, told the Journal, adding that some carriers may want to use some “passenger-friendly ways” to allow making calls inside a plane.

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