FCC Chairman Suddenly Thinks In-Flight Phone Calls Are A Bad Idea

FCC Chairman Suddenly Thinks In-Flight Phone Calls Are A Bad Idea

After yesterday’s very promising news that the FCC is (finally) considering allowing passengers to make cell phone calls on flights, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler all of a sudden seems to have cold feet. His two most recent statements show how drastically he’s changed his tone in the past 48 hours.

On Thursday, alongside the official FCC proposal to expand in-flight mobile wireless services, Wheeler sounded enthusiastic about the changes:

Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues, the FAA, and the airline industry on this review of new mobile opportunities for consumers.

But in another statement just a day later, he seemed positively icy over the idea of allowing in-flight phone calls:

We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on aeroplanes. I feel that way myself. Ultimately, if the FCC adopts the proposal in the coming months, it will be airlines’ decisions, in consultation with their customers, as to whether to permit voice calls while airborne.

Why the change of heart? The AP suggests that the FCC was flooded with complaints from folks who don’t want to overhear other people’s phone calls while trapped in a metal tube for hours on end. Which is valid.

Still, while the sudden flip-flop seems, well, sudden, it might just be a sign that the FCC really is listening to its constituents. Besides, as Wheeler points out in his second statement, even if the FCC formally approves in-flight calls, individual airlines will decide for themselves whether to allow it. [FCC via Engadget]