The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not revisited the ban on in-flight cell phone usage in the USA since it terminated its own proceeding on the matter in the spring of 2007.
And even though the likes of British Airways (BA) is planning to offer mobile connectivity on its new London City-New York JFK flights, the issue of in-flight cell phones isn’t even on the FCC’s radar screen and probably won’t be for some time, according to a regulatory source.
Why? Because the ridiculous-on-every-level “Hang Up Act”, which is wiggling its way through Congress, has given the FCC no reason to hone in on the subject again. And the FCC isn’t going to go against Congress, notes the source.
So everything now hinges on whether the bill, H.R.5788, gets passed. When I first read the legislation, I thought it was so thoroughly silly that it couldn’t possibly go anywhere. I was wrong.
It moved out of the House transportation and infrastructure committee on a voice vote “without so much as a public hearing or debate weighing the benefits and challenges of expanded communication for passengers”, notes the In-flight Passenger Communications Coalition, a group created by in-flight connectivity providers AeroMobile and OnAir for the very purpose of fighting the Hang-Up Act.
“A federal ban is a severe policy instrument and should be applied judiciously and only when public health and safety is at risk and supported by empirical scientific data,” adds the coalition.
While US lawmakes worry about in-flight chatty Kathys, commercial airlines in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East are all bringing this technology forward.
BA this week announced to much acclaim that its new all-business transatlantic Airbus A318 service from London City to JFK will allow passengers to communicate with mobile phones, although initially there will be no voice calls.
The airline has selected OnAir to provide the service ,which will enable Internet access (if you’ve got smart equipment) and transmission of email and text messages.
BA claims it will be the first UK airline to offer live in-flight communication services on a transatlantic connection. “Voice calls may be allowed in the future, subject to customer demand and feedback,” says the carrier.
Yeah. Voice calls (and messaging) will be allowed until the A318 hits US airspace. Then you can be darrn sure the service will get switched off until the plane lands. See what I mean by ridiculous?