U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander on Thursday introduced legislation to prohibit cell phone conversations on commercial airline flights, a possibility the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to consider today (Thursday).
â€œKeeping phone conversations private on commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but it is certainly enshrined in common sense,â€ said Alexander, a Tennessee Republican. â€œThis legislation is about avoiding something nobody wants: nearly two million passengers a day, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts.â€
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, is an original cosponsor of the legislation.
â€œFlying on a commercial airlineâ€”in a confined space, often for many hoursâ€”is a unique travel experience that is, candidly, not conducive to numerous passengers talking on cell phones,” Feinstein said. “This bill recognizes the use of cell phones to make calls during flights can be disruptive and irritating to other passengers and would prevent such communications during domestic flights. The bill, however, would not affect the ability to communicate via text and email during a flight.â€
The legislation, the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act, would prohibit the use of voice communication through cell phones on regularly scheduled commercial flights. The proposal came after the Federal Communications Commission announced it is exploring what type of cell phone use is safe on airplanes, a press release said.
The FCC announced the proposed rule change in November. It could allow air travelers to make cell phone calls above 10,000 feet andÂ allow air travelers to use their cellular data plans above that altitude.Â Restrictions would remain for takeoffs and landings.
FCCÂ Chairman Tom Wheeler said theÂ current rules are out-of-date.
But the move quickly generated a backlash, including from Alexander. In late November, he said he wouldÂ introduce legislation, if necessary, to stop the FCC from allowing cell phone conversations on airplanes.
The senators’ bill would allow the use of cell phones for texting and other electronic communication, if the FCC were to approve such communications. It would also allow the use of personal electronic devices such as Kindles and iPads during flight, which the Federal Aviation Administration recently approved, the press release said.
The FCC is scheduled to hold a public meeting this afternoon (Thursday afternoon) on a possible rule change approving the use of such technology on airplanes, a step it has acknowledged would â€œopen the doorâ€ to approved cell phone conversations on flights. Alexanderâ€™s legislation mirrors current regulation. It only applies to commercial airlines, not private charter flights or foreign carriers, unless the latter is flying between U.S. airports. It exempts federal air marshals and flight crews for official business.
Alexander continued: â€œWhen you stop and think about what we hear now in airport lobbiesâ€”babbling about last nightâ€™s love life, next weekâ€™s schedule, arguments with spousesâ€”itâ€™s not hard to see why the FCC shouldnâ€™t allow cell phone conversations on airplanes. The solution is simple: text messages, yes; conversations, no.â€