Mobile phone crusade hits US shores

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.

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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 hapThumbnail image for David Coiley.JPGpen 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.   


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3 Responses to Mobile phone crusade hits US shores

  1. Not Forreal September 30, 2008 at 1:56 am #

    Sorry, Mary, not with you on this one. While most people might be courteous, a not insubstantial minority will not because they know THEIR conversation is clearly the most important thing taking place on the planet at that moment. And, of course, they know if they shout into their phone, the electrons will go faster and farther, so clearly that’s a good practice with all cellphone conversations,

    C’mon, I’m sure you’ve encountered boobs who make and take calls in a theater in the middle of a movie, and seem highly indignant when someone asks them to take it outside (“I have a Right”!). Come to think of it, that might be a good solution for inflight use. I can think of few things worse that having to spend hours trapped sitting next to someone droning away incessantly about the most inane topics or taking endless “meetings” because the fate of Civilization As We Know It rests on them (just ask ‘em, if you can get a word in).

    I suspect that the repeated polls that show passengers overwhelmingly do Not want cellphones to be allowed inflight might just trump the interests of those who want to sell more phones. Unfortunately, human nature being what is, legislation like this is sadly necessary to keep the field level for all airlines and the phones off.

  2. Mary Kirby September 30, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    Okay, thanks for your comment. Let me throw out a little food for thought. Firstly, in-flight cell phone use will not be cheap. Passengers will pay the equivalent to international roaming rates (about $3 per minute) so that’s going to rule out a number of ultra-chatty types (teens on a budget, for example). Secondly, the current providers support up to six cell phone calls at one time – throughout the entire aircraft. You won’t have an entire plane-load of gabbers. Additionally, airlines can set standards as to when the system is on/off…if indeed arming folks with this sort of connectivity proves a nuisance, which I don’t believe it will. In any case, I don’t think you have to worry just yet…most signs point to USA’s continued stagnation in this regard.

  3. Shay Barry September 10, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    Your blog was the talk at work today, so we had to check it out and I am sure pleased I did. Hope to see more posts soon.