Oh hang on just one second. Is the ill-advised "Hang Up Act" really moving forward in the US House of Representatives? Shockingly, yes! The bill, which is intended to outlaw the use of in-flight mobile phones for voice communications, is expected to head to the House floor in October. It isn't any wonder, then, that rivals AeroMobile and OnAir are among a stack of stakeholders ready to step up the fight against this absolutely ludicrous piece of legislation.
They've joined together to form the so-called Passenger Communications Coalition (their web site goes live this week) "to balance the discussion and make sure that updated, accurate information is available to the parties", AeroMobile VP strategy and external relationships David Coiley told me last week at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition in Long Beach, California.
"We've gotten data to back up that the sky hasn't fallen on anyone's head from this [in-flight mobile phone usage]."
Indeed, data show that people are - shocker - actually able to act responsibly when given the right to use a cell phone during flight. Passengers in Europe and the Middle East are already championing the service. But here in the nanny states, Representatives Peter DeFazio, Jerry Costello, John Duncan and Thomas Petri - all senior members of the transportation committee that recently passed the Hang Up Act - appear hell bent to keep the current FCC and FAA in-flight cell phone ban in place.
"The public doesn't want to be subjected to people talking on their cell phones on an already over-packed airplane," said DeFazio when he introduced the bill. Thanks DeFazio, for trying to legislate courtesy. My dad used to hurl loogies out of our moving car. How about you start with the important stuff?
"Cell phone users should not be able to disrupt the comfort of an entire airplane cabin, especially when other passengers have no choice but to sit there and listen," said Duncan. This is a laughable comment since Duncan places the words "airplane cabin" and "comfort" in the same sentence.
The Hang Up Act is "an embarrassment", opined EMS Technologies CEO Paul Domorski during a WAEA forum. "From my perspective it puts uncertainty into the market as to what's going to happen in this area, and frankly provides cover for people that don't want to make these decisions. I think we have to speak out as to why this bill doesn't make any sense."
As far as I'm concerned, the Hang Up Act is a study in contradictions. Wired communications, such as those previously provided by now defunct Verizon Airfone, would be permitted. But mobile phones and wireless VoIP would not.
A series of meetings between the Passenger Communications Coalition and members of Congress and the media will take place this week.
"Once the facts of the matter are understood, any reasonably minded person would say 'the legislation is not necessary'," says Coiley.