That doesn’t mean the ban is automatically lifted. It just means that the agency approved a months long public comment process to remove the restriction.
“There is a need to recognize that there is a new technology,” said FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler. “This is a technical rule. It is a rule about technology. It is not a rule of usage.”
The use of cellphones on board planes has been banned for 22 years for fear they would interfere with cell usage on the ground. However, technology has changed and the fear has been eliminated.
Some Middle East and Asian airlines already permit voice calls. Delta announced it would not allow voice calls regardless of the FCC decision.
Wheeler told a Congressional committee this morning that he was “the last person in the world who wants to listen to somebody talking while flying across the country. But we are the technical agency, and we will make the rules for the way the new technology works.”
He also said he wants the airlines, and not the government, to have final say about on board calling.
At the same time, the Department of Transportation, which oversees the airline industry, is considering a ban of voice calling because they feel the use of cellphones on planes may not be fair to the consumer.
“Over the past few weeks, we have heard of concerns raised by airlines, travelers, flight attendants, members of Congress and others who are all troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cell phones in flight,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. ” I am concerned about this possibility as well.”
And if that wasn’t enough, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) and Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Diane Feinstein (D-California) are introducing bills that would ban voice calls and limit cellphone use to text messages and emails.
Shuster told CNN that crying babies and snoozing adults cause enough commotion on flights, and cell phone calls will only make matters worse.
Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose voice calls in flight. The number increases amongst those who fly the most.