The Federal Communications Commission has struck a nerve with its plan to allow cell-phone calls on planes.
More than a thousand people have filed comments in the past month begging the commission to reverse course. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler argues that the agency's ban—which was originally based on interference concerns with ground networks—is outdated, and other countries are already using technologies to allow phone calls without any interference problems.
Wheeler has said that he personally wouldn't want to sit next to a person carrying on an obnoxious phone conversation, but that the agency should abandon any rules that no longer have a sound technical basis. Individual airlines could still prohibit phone calls, and the Transportation Department could institute a new ban.
None of that hedging, however, is sitting well with the general public, and when the agency called for comment on the plan to end the cell-phone ban, they caught an earful.
Here's a sample:
"ABSOLUTELY NO CELL PHONE CALLS ON AIRCRAFT! Can you imagine being stuck next to or near some leather lunged moron ranting about the current fantasy football league at the top of his voice? Or some screechy fool carrying on about her (unhappy) love life? You want to see blood in the aisles, just go ahead and allow cell phone voice communications on aircraft. DO NOT LEAVE IT UP TO THE AIRLINES, who'll allow it if they can figure a way to make some money out of it. Exercise some leadership. Exercise some common sense."
"WORST IDEA IN THE HISTORY OF THE CIVILIZED WORLD !!!!!!"
— Robert DeVoria
"The use of cell phones by multiple passengers in flight will create a cacophony of noise that will make us plead for the relative solace of more crying infants."
"PLEEEEEEEZZZZZ Tell me that you Are NOT SERIOUS about letting people make phone calls on Airplanes!!!!!! There WILL be FIGHTING!!!"
"Further, while I accept that some ring tones are unique (my phone has John Williams's 'Imperial March', from the STAR WARS movies), too much of something can be obnoxious, especially if someone's phone might feature inappropriate or offensive lyrics."
—John W. Clifford
"I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT YOU WOULD ALLOW PEOPLE WITH CELL PHONES TALKING ON AN AIRPLAIN [sic]. EVERYONE HAS ONE AND WANTS TO TALK.
THIS IS AS WORSE AS THINKING ABOUT HAVE KNIVES ON BOARD.
EXCUSE ME FOR THIS LANGUAGE BUT: WHOEVER IS COMING UP WITH THESE IDEAS MUST BE SMOKING SOMETHING.
I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS. WILL YOU PROVIDE EVERYONE WITH EAR MUFFS?
BY THE WAY HAVING THE ABILITY TO PUSH YOUR SEAT BACK IS ANOTHER BAD IDEA. IT IS RUDE AND MAKES THE PERSON BEHIND THEM UNCOMFORTABLE."
"PLEASE tell me that this is some weird type of April Fools Day joke! I tried to bring to mind all the ways in which airplane travel has shifted over the 'more than 58 years I have been flying as a passenger on commercial airlines. Years ago, we dressed in suit and tie; stewardesses wore high heels and nylon stockings; and food arrived on real china, heated to dining temperature. Time spent in the air was actually period of time that was pleasant.
Nowadays, one wishes that some Federal agency would accord passengers the rights enjoyed to cattle being led to slaughter. Frankly, the thought of being trapped for hours at a time on a cross continental flight near some blowhard bellowing into his cell phone, with a teeny-queenie across the aisle sobbing about her boyfriend who just dumped her, while a hard-of-hearing grandmother talks baby talk to the new grandchild - couldn't we just sign up to sit in the section reserved for screaming infants instead?"
—Grant P. Thompson
"Moving forward with this proposal will jeopardize safety and comfort on board our aircraft. As the professionals charged with maintaining a safe and comfortable cabin, Flight Attendants will not support changes to the current policy."
—Association of Professional Flight Attendants
But not all of the comments were negative. The Telecommunications Industry Association and the Consumer Electronics Association applauded the FCC for moving to end the ban. CTIA, which represents the wireless carriers, voiced support for the proposal but urged the FCC to carefully evaluate potential interference problems.
The deadline for comments was Friday, and the agency will accept reply comments until March 17. After reviewing the comments, the agency will make a final decision about whether to lift its ban.