FCC Cancels Flight Of Cell Phones

from the silence dept

As was previously expected, the FCC has decided not to lift a ban on the use of mobile phones on airplanes. It says there's still insufficient evidence that in-flight use, even with onboard base stations, wouldn't interfere with networks on the ground. But it's also likely the Commission was responding to the overwhelming amount of public comment against lifting the ban. The FAA is still examining the issue of how phones and other electronic devices interfere with planes' navigational and communications equipment, but without FCC approval, those results don't really matter. It's likely that the technical issues can be overcome -- but the fact remains that plenty of people don't want to get stuck in the confines of an economy-class seat next to somebody jabbering away on their phone for hours at a time.


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  1.  
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    Ron (profile), Apr 4th, 2007 @ 10:30am

    Technical Data

    Reports elsewhere said the FCC had not received enough technical data during public comment. Not sure what technical data they were expecting. Reseach and practical experience shows that that cell phones and other standard electronic devices do not cause intereference with the plane's systems or with ground support (and, since apparently, European airlines will be allowing it on their flights starting later this year, the evidence mounts that cell phones do not interfere with airplane controls). The only intereference is with the other fliers. I've recently found that my neighbor's elbows caused at least as much interference during the flight as would anyone talking on a cell phone.
    I'm just as happy that cell phone use is not allowed on flights

     

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    Mike, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 10:33am

    but the fact remains that plenty of people don't want to get stuck in the confines of an economy-class seat next to somebody jabbering away on their phone for hours at a time.

    Give them some earplugs then. Perhaps they should bring along an MP3 player for the flight... What is the matter with people who for some reason cannot stand to hear only one side of a conversation?

     

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    Aaron, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 10:42am

    Re: 2¢

    I don't think it's simply a matter of hearing just one side of a conversation. Some people just feel the need to speak incredibly loud when they're on a cell phone. Much louder, usually, than they would if they were sitting next to and talking to you.

     

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    KAM, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 10:56am

    Re: 2¢

    Not everyone use common courtesy when they speak on the phone, I had a lady yelling at her kids over the phone as we were about to take off. Now how would you like it if they did this while we are in the air. As the previous poster mentioned, some people are phone deaf and have to scream into the phone for the other person to hear; just because you can't hear the other person it doesn't mean they can't hear you.

     

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    Mike, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 11:01am

    Yes, that's true. In that case I can bring my MP3 player. :)

     

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    dorpus, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 11:08am

    i should move back to japan...

     

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    janet, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 11:09am

    Some people just don't get it

    Why is this concept so difficult for some people to understand? I do not want to hear your loud voice as you talk to your mother in Boise about your husband's problem with incontinence. When it was business people who owned cell phones, they didn't tend to talk loudly into them.

    Once in a while, you'd get some fat assed lawyer with a big mouth, but for years I managed a restaurant and our regular customers had cell phones going back to around 1990. The noise was never a problem because you couldn't hear them from one table to the next.



    The biggest mistake society ever made was causing cell phones to be made affordable to the masses. It was a technological step forward and ten societal steps backward. Now people on welfare can afford cell phones, and when that happens in a first-world nation, something has gone terribly wrong.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 11:23am

    Re: 2¢

    Why should I take counteractive measures, when the vast majority of cell phone users are being rude and inconsiderate.

    I'm tired of giving in to a few squeeky wheels. An overwhelming majority of people do not want cell phones allowed on planes because of the inconsiderate users.

    I think this decision is awesome. I'm throwing a party this weekend!

     

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    Karl, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 11:28am

    Re: 2¢

    "Give them some earplugs then. Perhaps they should bring along an MP3 player for the flight... What is the matter with people who for some reason cannot stand to hear only one side of a conversation?"

    They've got this crazy disease where listening to idiots chatter at high volume about jack shit makes them angry.

    Maybe we can force them to wear late night CIA extradition black bags on their heads? The nerve of those people...

     

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    The infamous Joe, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 11:39am

    Cry a river and build a bridge...

    Are you all serious? You don't want cell phones allowed on flights because the person next to you *might* annoy you? You are all what's wrong with the world today. (If I misread your comments, then I apologize, but I don't think I did.) So, what if I like to sing along to my music on my ipod? That would very quickly become annoying. (if not downright painful) Why not push to ban mp3 players? I mean, the person next to you *might* annoy you because of it.

    Or, you know, you could ask me to please stop singing-- or stop being so loud on my cell phone. We don't need a government agency to force us to do what should be common courtesy.. especially since a simple polite request should solve the problem.

    Learn to play well with others without the big bad government making you. Sheesh.

     

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    chris, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 11:45am

    Hasn't anyone from the FCC seen the episode on Mythbusters where they disproved this notion? Geez, someone send them a copy of that episode.

     

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    ehrichweiss, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 11:55am

    Re: 2¢

    "Give them some earplugs then."

    Let me know when you ride a city bus next; I've got a nice boombox to sit behind you with that NO noise canceling headphones can negate.

    Your rights to free speech end where my rights to ignore them end; thusly I don't have to find a way to ignore you in a library since you're SUPPOSED to STFU nor should it be my responsibility to find such on an airplane. If you're on the street or in a public building with no such restrictions, it's all fair game; otherwise if I'm forced to sit where I do, then you're also forced to keep your speech to yourself.

    I'd bet that you'd complain if someone next to you in a theatre was talking on their cellphone.... Why would it be any different?

     

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    The infamous Joe, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 12:01pm

    Mr. White did it in the airplane with a dumb law.

    I understand what you're aiming for with your Theater comparison, but the difference is that a a government agency isn't going to fine you for talking in a theater. It's up to the theater. Just like it should be up to the airline.

    I'm not saying that cell phones on flights is a good idea, I'm saying that using the FCC to prevent it isn't the right way to do it.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Apr 4th, 2007 @ 12:10pm

    It's Not Just A Few Bad Apples

    If it were just a few bad apples who yelled into their phones with mundane conversations, perhaps we could avoid the laws, and simply politely ask those few to be quiet. But unfortunately, it is the majority of cell phone users who speak loudly and have boring half-conversations (including you, me, and some jerks as well). Trying to politely ask them to hush up would amount to whack-a-mole, and probably a few responses of "@#$-you", too.

    United Airlines allows use of cell phones after touchdown, and it is the norm for a few annoying conversations to fire up right away. Funny how 150 people could sit in the plane carrying out some dozens of conversations during the entire flight, yet none are so loud and invasive as the cell calls. But it happens that way.

    I'm OK with that United Air policy, since it's just the short time on taxi, and people have logistical issues to work out when they fly. But I'm glad I don't have to endure it for the whole flight.

    And I don't want to take on the role of "polite police" and tell 10 people per flight to be quiet. Those suggestions (from other comments) are like saying "Let's get rid of the police, and just ask the burglars politely to stop robbing us". Guess what...it's not something I want to to myself. Like I also don't grow my own wheat. Turns out that a society is like a system, and there are rules, roles, and mores.

    As for the technical explanation of why the FCC is avoiding cell phone use in the air, see the 2003 Techdirt post:
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20030428/1645207_F.shtml

    ...where my comments were:

    "
    The key reason that in-flight cellular use is banned is that it disrupts the cellular network.

    The network was designed as terrestrial, with 2-D cells laid across the surface of the earth. As the network is laid out on the ground in cells, the frequencies are re-used by towers and customers in non-adjacent cells. That means that you can be in Hoboken using your cellphone on channel x, while another cellular user is in Harlem also talking on channel x. Even on the same frequency, because of the distance, your phone on the ground in Hoboken does not interfere with the phone in Harlem. Now imagine you are in a plane 15,000 ft over Manhattan. Your signal is equally strong in Harlem and Hoboken. This destroys the geographic frequency re-use of the cellular network, and as you know, frequency spectrum is a rare resource in this industry. Simply put, airplane-based cellular use does not fit the design of our current cellular networks.

    The 9/11 calls are perfect examples. Yes, some calls worked some of the time, but in an unreliable, low quality way. We've all heard the 911 tapes: failed handoffs and dropped calls were the order of the day.

    Lastly, there is a possibility that the carriers have a hard time managing, and thus billing for these calls. That's a big no-no to for-profit companies.

    If you research, you will find that because it is bad for the communications industry, the FCC is the agency that disallows use of cell phones on planes, NOT the FAA (although your cabin crew usually states the opposite). There is no FAA regulation against such phone use, but it is airline policy.

    I don't believe for a second that Blackberrys, cell phones, or even the more powerful signals of WiFi can disrupt a plane in flight, but they can disrupt a cellular network. If I believed that a cellular was capable of taking down a plane, I would take the bus, because there are always a few phones that were mistakenly left on.

    That said, I think the FCC should get a law against people who think they need to yell into their cell phone before we even consider allowing use on planes. Ay caramba, the darned cabin crew and pilot's announcements are loud and annoying enough, I don't want to have to listen to someone's half-conversation too!

    www.kertongroup.com

     

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  15.  
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    Alex, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 12:36pm

    There's been a spate of recent articles about Wifi on planes.

    So WiFi + headset + Skype has the same effect. I suppose less people will do that, meaning that less people will be bothered, but I'm very confused why Cell phones = bad, Wifi = good.

     

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    chris, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 12:43pm

    You guys act like you will be in a movie when these people will be on the phone. You are on a noisy airplane, who cares? If you dont like it, bring an mp3 player. Its not like you havent had to deal with people on thier phones in restaraunts or other places for the past 10 years. It just a couple hour plane flight get over it.

     

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    dazcon5, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 12:46pm

    no manners

    Just a normal day here in the US. People too wrapped up in their own issues to give two shits about the fellow human sitting next to them. It's just manners (or the lack thereof). Some folks just don't care, and a law banning them won't stop them. I agree that this will cause problems with the terrestrial cell networks so it should be banned. Yes I agree that the evidence for interference to aircraft systems is not there. Finally just STFU! how many times have you been to an eatery just to be annoyed by a group of loud mouths next to you (cell phone or not). What do you think would happen if everyone just spent 2 seconds to respect the other people around them...

     

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    BTR1701, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Cry a river and build a bridge...

    > We don't need a government
    > agency to force us to do what
    > should be common courtesy

    I agree. The government shouldn't be doing it but the airlines should. As private businesses, they have every right to set rules of behavior on their planes and since the overwhelming majority of their customers seem to favor keeping the cabins cell-phone free, then the airlines should keep the policy.

    But your right, it's not the government's place to be regulating common courtesy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 2:11pm

    Here's a million $ idea for some entrepeneur if cell phones are ever allowed on airplanes:

    Develop a small transmitting device that jams cell phone signals within 5 feet or at least causes terrible static. Make it small enough that I can slip it into my pocket and can turn it on at will. Sell it on the black market or post the instructions on how to build one on the internet.

    Honestly, if it were available commercially, I'd pay $50 - $100 for one of those in a heart beat.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 2:18pm

    Re:

    by chris on Apr 4th, 2007 @ 12:43pm
    You guys act like you will be in a movie when these people will be on the phone. You are on a noisy airplane, who cares? If you dont like it, bring an mp3 player. Its not like you havent had to deal with people on thier phones in restaraunts or other places for the past 10 years. It just a couple hour plane flight get over it.


    --NO-- You get over it. It's just a couple hour plane flight. YOU can do without the phone. I don't find planes noisy...I find loudmouths who can't keep their voices down noisy. Just WHERE in the world did you learn your manners?

    And what is so damned important that you would sacrifice courtesy and respect for the person sitting elbow to elbow with you in order to talk on the cell phone?

     

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  21.  
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    Stanislav, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 2:22pm

    Re:

    @chris,

    Obviously you've never even been on a plane, let alone actually flown. Let's paint a picture you can understand.

    Image that you've been stuffed into an empty Red Bull can along with [ Michael Moore | Ann Coulter ] and you can't get out for 4 hours. That begins to approach the problem at hand. Only we need to include the recirculating odor of diarrhea every 15 minutes for the duration.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 2:31pm

    Re: 2¢

    Why should I have to listen to any part of my neighbors conversation. If I must listen to the cell conversation, then I need to bring not ear-buds but large speakers.

     

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  23.  
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    Jane, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 2:40pm

    Is it age related?

    Maybe this dispute is defined by age. I'm 36, which is old enough to remember when my house had one phone in the kitchen. One black rotary phone. There was no answering machine and if you weren't home, the person called back later. Call waiting? No, we had busy signals.



    People under the age of 25 and especially those under the age of 21 have grown up with cell phones in their hands. They probably don't even hear the idiot next to them who is yelling into a cell phone. If they do, it's a noise they can accept and deal with, because this is the only world they know. I would take a guess and say that the pro cell phones in planes people here are all very young.

     

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  24.  
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    Jane, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 2:48pm

    Re: cell phone jammers

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 3:25pm

    Re: 2¢

    Earplugs?

    How about you not talk on the phone? Cell phones are an annoyance and they certainly aren't a right. If you were sitting next to me on a plane, talking on your phone and I took out my iPod and a set of speakers (not headphones) and started playing music you would get pissed off. Why? Because you don't want to listen to it - just like we don't want to listen to your damn phone conversation.

    It is NO different. I don't have the right to bother you just like you don't have the right to bother me and talking on your phone will bother me. You don't have the RIGHT to bother me just like I don't have the right to bother you.

    You or anyone else who feels compelled to disrespect others by jabbering on their phones in public need to realize that you all aren't the only people in the world - contrary to what you believe. You all are also not that important that it is ok to annoy everyone else. Seriously. You aren't.

    It is that simple.

     

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  26.  
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    wifezilla, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 4:17pm

    Irrational

    Tis hatred of cellphones is just so irrational I can't understand it. If 2 people are having a conversation loudly next to you...do you say anything? Does it bother you? Are they being rude or are you just hypersensitive? Does it depend on your mood?

    Now, have the conversation the same volume and make it one person talking on a cell phone. Why does this suddenly become the cause for the downfall of society? Is this cellphone magic somehow and causes people to lose their minds? A cell phone is an inanimate object. It has no inherent goodness or evilness on its own. If someone is being a jerk, they are being a jerk....the fact that they are holding a cell phone doesn't make one bit of difference.

    Maybe if the anti-cellphone crowd would just admit they are nosey and hate missing out on half the conversation I would respect their position a little more.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 11:27pm

    Re: Irrational

    I don't hate my cell phone, as a matter of fact I love it. But I too am guilty of talking louder than normal on it. When I'm speaking to someone on an airplane, I'm conscious of my volume and always speak in a lower tone so others don't listen in and out of courtesy to other travelers.

    It's a false assumption to think that cell phone users have a conversation on a phone at the same volume as they do when speaking to someone next to them. The large population of what you call the "anti-cellphone crowd" is testiment to this happing.

    If 2 people are having a loud conversation that bothers me and I will say something. Unfortunately, if you say something on a plane and the other party is offended, then you are stuck in the uncomfortable situation of having to sit next to them for the next 3 hours.

    If you and every other person who wants to use cell phones on a plane PROMISE to whisper when you're on the phone, then I would support cell phones on planes as long as you kept your promise.

     

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  28.  
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    dazcon5, Apr 5th, 2007 @ 5:58am

    Re: Irrational

    Tis not hatred of cellphones dear lady, but more the lack of common courtesy on the part of the loud talker, who is the focus of my irritation. Sometime these folks aren't even aware they are bothering people. Generally a polite "excuse me but could you not speak so loudly" makes them aware of the issue and they quiet down. Yes on a rare occasion you will get the nasty glare and an F.U. as a response.

     

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  29.  
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    dazcon5, Apr 5th, 2007 @ 5:59am

    Re: Irrational

    Tis not hatred of cellphones dear lady, but more the lack of common courtesy on the part of the loud talker, who is the focus of my irritation. Sometime these folks aren't even aware they are bothering people. Generally a polite "excuse me but could you not speak so loudly" makes them aware of the issue and they quiet down. Yes on a rare occasion you will get the nasty glare and an F.U. as a response.

     

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  30.  
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    BTR1701, Apr 5th, 2007 @ 7:25am

    Re: Irrational

    > This hatred of cellphones is just so
    > irrational I can't understand it.

    For me, it's not the hatred of the phone per se, but this attitude among so many people now that these ridiculous little devices are absolutely essential for life, and that any time they are asked to turn it off or stop using it, you might as well be asking them to slice off their right arm or stop breathing.

    Cell phones truly are the crack cocaine of the 21st century. People refuse to stop using them even when it's polite and appropriate and they are repeatedly asked to do so. I no longer go to movies in theaters any more in large part because of the incessant cell phone use that goes on from the moment the film starts right on through to the end credits. Even when people aren't actively talking on them, they're checking their voice mail, sending and receiving text messages and even playing games (all of which can be even more annoying than talking because those little LCD screens shine like beacons in a dark movie theater).

    It's gotten so bad that a California theater chain bought signal jammers and installed them in their movie houses. When people found out about it, based on their reaction, you'd think the theater had tried to sell their children on the black market or something equally horrendous.

    Amazingly enough, 20 years ago, people somehow managed to go out to the movies, to concerts, to restaurants and even on extended vacations with no cell phones tying them into an instantaneous communication grid every second of the day.

    Now you ask them to turn the phone off for 90 minutes in a movie theater or 2 hours on a plane and you get a look of stricken abject horror and fevered protestations about the "right" to have a phone on standby at all times.

    > If 2 people are having a conversation
    > loudly next to you...do you say
    > anything?

    If it's loud and disturbing and inappropriate for the venue, sure I do.

    > Now, have the conversation the same
    > volume and make it one person
    > talking on a cell phone.

    And here's the flaw in your reasoning. Rarely are cell phone conversations held "at the same volume" as in-person face-to-face conversations.

     

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  31.  
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    Nasty Old Geezer, Apr 5th, 2007 @ 9:17am

    Typical picture

    A few years ago (but no many) I saw a youngish couple at the Baltimore airport. They were blocking the only remaining bank of pay phones in the area with their bags, both engaged in conversation -- on their CELL PHONES.

    STFU for a while, you're not so important that the rest of world can't survive without your yakk for a couple of hours.

    The day that cell phones or VOIP can be used on airplanes is the last day I fly anywhere. The f-ing airplanes are torture enough without a dozen loud mouths yammering away.

    As far as earplugs, music players, etc. -- too bad, they don't work, especially at 6:00 AM when I need to sleep.

     

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  32.  
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    John, Apr 7th, 2007 @ 10:03am

    Cellphones

    While they're at it they should just ban cellphones in all public places like smoking ,I shouldnt be subjected to someone else's reason to kill themselves SLOWLY.
    Make it illegal to use in cars ,restaurants and movies.Period!
    Bravo on this decision!

     

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  33.  
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    Adam, Apr 15th, 2007 @ 1:44pm

    Cellphones

    Just ban phone calls and allow SMS, GPRS/3G/EDGE/etc data services with common VOIP protocols blocked. And enforce the use of headphones so there's not a constant barrage of badly-replayed music "ringtones"/"messagetones".

    It can't be that hard to block just VOIP apps, and with Data services people can still yammer on for hours over MSN Messenger, AIM and the like. Course, you'll get the click-click-click of keyboards. But that's ignoreable.

     

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  34.  
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    asdf, Dec 23rd, 2007 @ 2:40pm

    wifi

    I'm going to use it on the plane if they like it or not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     

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