House Panel Approves Bill to Ban Phone Calls on Planes

The House Transportation Committee rebukes the FCC.

A plane comes in for a landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) at dusk November 1, 2013. Earlier in the day a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle inside the airport, killing a security agent, creating scenes of chaos and causing widespread flight disruptions. 
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Feb. 11, 2014, 6:27 a.m.

The House Trans­port­a­tion Com­mit­tee voted un­an­im­ously Tues­day to ad­vance le­gis­la­tion that would ban cell-phone calls on planes. The bill is a sharp re­buke of a pro­pos­al by the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion to lift its cur­rent pro­hib­i­tion on in-flight calls.

“As any­one who flies knows, air­plane cab­ins are noisy, crowded, and con­fined,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, the com­mit­tee chair­man and au­thor of the bill. “Sub­ject­ing pas­sen­gers to po­ten­tially mul­tiple, loud phone con­ver­sa­tions in such close quar­ters would ob­vi­ously di­min­ish the com­fort of any flight. It is just plain com­mon sense that while on a plane with so many oth­er people it will be in every­one’s best in­terest to keep phone calls out of the cab­in.”

Shuster ar­gued that it’s fine to al­low pas­sen­gers to text and browse the Web on their phones, but he’s op­posed to calls that might dis­turb oth­ers. 

Rep. Nick Ra­hall, the top Demo­crat on the com­mit­tee, ar­gued that in-flight phone use is a ser­i­ous safety and com­fort is­sue. He said that un­like an Amtrak train, it’s not feas­ible to have a “quiet car” on a plane where people can avoid noisy con­ver­sa­tions. Demo­crat­ic Rep. Grace Na­pol­it­ano noted she fre­quently has to fly back and forth to her dis­trict in Cali­for­nia and said no one should be “bom­barded with in­form­a­tion you don’t want to know.”

The bill, H.R. 3676, would dir­ect the Trans­port­a­tion De­part­ment to en­act new reg­u­la­tions ban­ning in-flight calls ex­cept for the flight crew or law-en­force­ment of­ficers. Shuster ar­gued that it’s not the FCC’s job to reg­u­late calls on planes.

The FCC has a long-stand­ing ban on in-flight calls based on tech­nic­al con­cerns about in­ter­fer­ence with ground net­works. In Novem­ber, FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er an­nounced he would move ahead with a pro­pos­al to lift the ban, cit­ing new tech­no­lo­gies that can avoid the in­ter­fer­ence prob­lems.

But Wheel­er, who had just taken of­fice a few weeks earli­er, faced a swift pub­lic blow­back from people afraid of get­ting stuck in a small space near an ob­nox­ious con­ver­sa­tion.

Wheel­er cla­ri­fied that he per­son­ally didn’t want to have a phone call near him on a plane, but he ar­gued that if the tech­nic­al basis for the FCC’s rules is gone, the agency should lift the ban. In Decem­ber, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to be­gin ac­cept­ing pub­lic com­ments on the pro­pos­al. But even Demo­crat­ic Com­mis­sion­er Jes­sica Rosen­wor­cel, who voted to move ahead, ex­pressed con­cern about the plan and in­dic­ated she may not sup­port any fi­nal ac­tion to al­low in-flight calls.

Ahead of the FCC vote, Trans­port­a­tion Sec­ret­ary An­thony Foxx said his de­part­ment would ex­plore en­act­ing its own rules against in-flight calls.

Shuster’s bill now moves to the full House for con­sid­er­a­tion.

Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Lamar Al­ex­an­der has in­tro­duced sim­il­ar le­gis­la­tion in the up­per cham­ber, but a spokes­man for the Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee did not com­ment on wheth­er the pan­el plans to take up the bill.  

What We're Following See More »
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
5 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Variety Looks at How Michelle Obama Has Leveraged Pop Culture
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

“My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen," says Michelle Obama in a new profile in Variety. "So I’m always game for a good joke, and I’m not so formal in this role. There’s very little that we can’t do that people wouldn’t appreciate.” According to writer Ted Johnson, Mrs. Obama has leveraged the power of pop culture far beyond her predecessors. "Where are the people?" she asks. "Well, they’re not reading the op-ed pieces in the major newspapers. They’re not watching Sunday morning news talk shows. They’re doing what most people are doing: They are watching TV.”

Source:
RUSSIAN HACKERS LIKELY BEHIND THE ATTACKS
New York Times, Other News Organizations Hacked
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The FBI and other US security agencies are currently investigating a series of computer breaches found within The New York Times and other news organizations. It is expected that the hacks were carried out by individuals working for Russian intelligence. It is believed that these cyber attacks are part of a "broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said."

Source:
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDENTS PETITIONED
NLRB: Graduate Students Can Unionize
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a 3-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Columbia University graduate students, granting them the legal right to unionize. The petition was brought by a number of teaching assistants enrolled in graduate school. This decision could pave the way for thousands of new union members, depending on if students at other schools nationwide wish to join unions. A number of universities spoke out in opposition to this possibility, saying injecting collective bargaining into graduate school could create a host of difficulties.

Source:
DIFFERENT KIND OF CONVENTION BOUNCE
Cruz Approval Ratings Underwater
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Following Texas Senator Ted Cruz's controversial decision not to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, instead telling voters to "vote (their) conscience," a new poll out today shows that his approval ratings have sunk. The poll from Public Policy Polling shows that 39 percent of Texans approve of the job Cruz is doing, compared to 48 percent who don't approve. Additionally, despite winning the GOP primary in the state, the poll found that if the primary was held today, Trump would garner 52 percent of support to just 38 percent for Cruz.

Source:
×