What's going on with the nefarious Hang-Up Act, which is intended to outlaw the in-flight use of mobile phones for voice communications in the USA, and which has been unceremoniously tucked into FAA reauthorization legislation?
Inmarsat's David Coiley is going to break it all down for attendees at the upcoming WAEA single focus connectivity workshop in Everett, Washington and I'll be sure to report back (which reminds me...I still need to book my hotel room!!!).
But in advance of what will no doubt be a highly-informative speech from Coiley, here is what I can tell you thus far.
All rumours indicate that the Senate will introduce its version of FAA reauthorization legislation soon - possibly this week or next.
Since funding for the FAA has been extended eight times - eight times, me lad!!! - in absence of an approved FAA reauthorization bill, the Senate has plenty of reason to urgently move its version of the bill through the commerce, science and transportation committee for mark-up, and consider it in its entirety in the near-term.
The House has already passed its version of FAA reauthorization legislation, which includes the Hang-Up Act word-age, verbiage and scourge-age. So swift action by the Senate is to be expected as it would avoid another FAA funding extension. Can you say pressure?
The In-flight Passenger Communications Coalition (IPCC), which comprises industry stakeholders AeroMobile, OnAir, Panasonic Avionics and others - an interesting group, but let's leave the irony of the last two days out of this for now - has been working diligently on Capitol Hill to stop the Hang-Up Act from being included in the Senate's version of FAA reauthorization.
IPCC executive director Carl Biersack is encouraged by what he and the group have heard on the Hill. "We often got longer meetings then anticipated to talk though all aspects of the policy and operational performance internationally. I have been personally pleased with the interest and penetrating questions from the staffers. They are doing their due-diligence," says Biersack.
What else is IPCC finding out on the Hill?
• We found only three Congressional offices that said 'we are for the ban' despite our presentation of the system-management-crew multilayered controls and the limits and inhibitors (i.e., number of lines for simultaneous use and cost per minute).
• We found that the vast majority of offices want to support the natural evolution of technology and passenger expectations of having the same connectivity they enjoy on the ground (especially when they discover interference matters are resolved).
• We found offices that were pleased to learn of the controls and disciplines (self and systemic) that can effectively address the social issues.
• We found that the committee has some very big aviation policy issues to address; where solutions are not simple and our matter is not in that mix.
• We found a great concern for the fiscal health of the industry and how it intersects the economic events both here and globally and they were pleased to hear that our issue is about a positive revenue stream.
I know I've made this argument before, but it bears repeating. In-flight mobile connectivity is happening right now all over the world. To be precise, it is now on three continents, 16 carriers, 52 nations, 240 city destinations, and 7.000 flights per month.
Some 1,000,000 passengers per month ride on a flight where in-flight voice communications are offered. ONE MILLION!!!
If everyone else can act responsibility when it comes to this technology, why can't we, America? But of course we can!!!
"Part of the strength of our story in Washington is the actual operational performance around the globe. It should trump anecdotal hypothetical 'illustrations' every time," says Biersack.
"Another part of the Washington story is the media coverage we have received and support from affiliated stakeholders from the aviation - communication marketplace/community. Our story is being heard."