Bill to Ban In-Flight Cell-Phone Chatter Moving Forward

The House Transportation Committee will mark up a bill Tuesday seeking to permanently keep calls grounded during flight.

A Blackberry cell phone is seen at Fixx wireless on November 4, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Feb. 10, 2014, 8:34 a.m.

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Fre­quent fli­ers, re­joice!

The House Trans­port­a­tion and In­fra­struc­ture Com­mit­tee will mark up a bill Tues­day to ban cell-phone calls dur­ing com­mer­cial flight.

The bill is be­ing shep­her­ded by Chair­man Bill Shuster, and it quickly picked up 29 co­spon­sors after hit­ting the floor in Decem­ber.

Shuster, a Pennsylvania Re­pub­lic­an, in­tro­duced his le­gis­la­tion in re­sponse to a 3-2 vote by the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion to open pub­lic com­ments on a pro­pos­al to al­low in-flight calls once a plane as­cends above 10,000 feet. The de­cision, backed by newly ap­poin­ted FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er, touched off a furi­ous firestorm across the coun­try and in Con­gress, as fears of fu­ture flights filled with chatty seat neigh­bors es­cal­ated.

“I do not want the per­son in the seat next to me yap­ping at 35,000 feet any more than any­one else,” Wheel­er fam­ously re­marked ahead of the FCC vote. “But we are not the Fed­er­al Cour­tesy Com­mis­sion.”

Polls taken dur­ing the up­roar show that most people prefer calls re­main strictly off-lim­its while a plane is in the air.

The FCC’s ap­prov­al of a com­ment peri­od on the pro­pos­al, of course, does not mean the com­mis­sion­ers have de­term­ined wheth­er to ul­ti­mately go for­ward with the idea. Sev­er­al pro­ced­ur­al hurdles re­main.

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