Congress Pushes Forward On Banning Already Banned In-Flight Calls

from the aren't-politicians-great? dept

The crusade against the almost non-existent in-flight phone call menace continues. First, we had the FCC insist that it would not lift the ban on in-flight use of mobile phones, in part because of worries from people about having to sit next to someone yapping away. Then, a few months later, the FAA also said that it would not allow mobile phones to be used on airplanes. As we noted at the time, this seemed rather superfluous, given the FCC ruling. But, of course, when there’s an issue that’s already been decided, who best to step in and decide it all over again but Congress?

Yes, a Congressional representative, Peter DeFazio, has given us the (I kid you not on the name) Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace (Hang Up) Act, which forbids “voice communications using communications devices on scheduled flights.” We had mentioned this law when it was first proposed, but it’s actually now been approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

While I can understand the annoyance factor that people fear (and, yes, it’s actually been shown that only hearing half of the conversation is more annoying, which is why it’s different than just having people talking to each other on the plane), it’s still not clear why such a law is needed. Beyond the FCC and FAA bans already in place, if such phone calls are really as annoying as most people predict, then why wouldn’t airlines already ban them, rather than piss off customers? Or, more likely, you’d get some self-selection in a way that benefits everyone. Some airlines might allow phone calls, while others wouldn’t — and people can self-select. Or, some airlines may have “talking sections” and “non-talking sections,” and, again, the issue is solved completely without needing a law at all. This is yet another example of Congress telling us what it thinks is good for everyone, when people are pretty well-equipped to figure that out on their own.

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Comments on “Congress Pushes Forward On Banning Already Banned In-Flight Calls”

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Casper says:

Re: Re:

I think Congressman DeFazio was actually playing madlibs when he made the title for that bill. There is no other way that something that bad could come from an elected official, short of that official being mentally deficient.

Have you seen him? Have you seen anything he has done? He’s not exactly short of that goal…

Anonymous Coward says:

Ok…..people get upset when they can only eavesdrop on half the conversation? So it’s basically a law saying “let me listen your whole conversation or your not allowed to have it at all.”

One of the places I work has recently gone to an open office environment, which is basically a cube-farm with only 3 ft. walls…..this means everyone in there is going to be hearing half of a phone conversation 8 hours a day. Where are the laws stopping that?

Brian says:

Another Winner

This is so ridiculously stupid. I would be somewhat less intolerant if a business preferred that its customers not make voice calls while on an air place. However, now someone in Congress wants to put it into national law? I don’t think so. Why don’t we just outlaw talking in general. What about loud breathing. Squeaky shoes. Keys rattling around, et cetera.

“Sir. You’re fat ass is chewing on those peanuts too loudly. Don’t make me get the Marshall.”

Screw the FAA, too. People are taking this homeland security crap way too far. Jackoffs. What a waste of my money.

2010 says:

Might actually be beneficial

Once airlines offer Wireless Internet on flights you will have people connecting to Skype with headsets saying “I’m not USING my phone, I’m not interfering with the radio spectrum…”

It is at this point that an over-arching congressional broad-ban (no pun intended) on “communicating verbally” will actually prove useful.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:


I have a friend who is a pilot in training.
He now has his instrument rating certification (he can fly through clouds and fly higher and stuff).
He was telling me how cell phones have never really caused interference with anything in the planes to begin with.
Just some food for thought. Of course I did not ask if this was simply for all of the smaller planes like the Cessnas or if he meant all planes. I assumed he meant all planes based on how I worded the question.

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually, this action is being sponsored (bribed) by the telecom companies – and not from some misguided attempt at clearing the air, so to speak.

The current cell phone billing infrastructure cannot keep up with the volume of hand-offs between towers of dozens of people going 525mph.

So, rather than fix the problem – they have HEAVILY lobbied congress to take the initiative, so they wouldn’t look like the bad guys – or disclose an architectural failing of their system.


limaxray says:

Ban babies too

Personally, I find crying babies and fat people on air planes to be far more annoying than a cell phone conversation could ever be. I really don’t get why people get so upset about others talking on a cell phone; sure it’s rude but it’s pretty easy to block out and really not all that annoying.

This shouldn’t even be an issue. It shouldn’t be up to any part of our government to decide what we consumers find annoying. Let the airlines deal with it: if they want to charge extra for a ‘phone free’ section or flights, great, I’ll take the cheaper seats and listen to my iPod. I can live without the ‘luxury’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ban babies too

I really don’t get why people get so upset about others talking on a cell phone; sure it’s rude but it’s pretty easy to block out and really not all that annoying.

There is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

It shouldn’t be up to any part of our government to decide what we consumers find annoying. Let the airlines deal with it:

Why should it be up to the airline to “decide what we consumers find annoying”? I think they can decide that on their own. And if you want to go down that road then why not let the passengers themselves deal with it? Maybe let them bring stun guns on board with them to help educate the “rude” passengers?

You're full of crap says:

Anonymous Coward = Retarded

You can’t get cell signal at 32,000 feet anyway idiot. And even at the altitudes you CAN get reception (take off and landing) there wouldn’t be that much traffic for telecom companies to get in a tizzy over.

This Bill is just a pre-emptive law for when the infrastructure and technology is in place in which wireless data is possible on individual commercial aircraft–namely internet and the consequent VOiP.

You’re absolutely full of crap.


Jim says:

Re: Anonymous Coward = Retarded

There is no reason to be abrasive (especially if you aren’t sure what you are talking about).

Cell towers commonly have ranges of more than 32 Kft. That is even before you take optimization into account (there are no obstacles between a tower and a plane, you can use directional antennas, etc). Now, towers do have a problem with switching from tower to tower – especially if you happen to be going hundreds of miles per hour and you are in range of multiple towers).

This bill may or may not have the intended purpose that you have proposed, but your arguments are wrong.

zcat (profile) says:

It doesn't bring down the planes, it brings down the network!

The problem with people using phones at high altitude is really to do with how the cellphone networks work. There are a limited number of frequencies available to the cellphone system.

On the ground when someone is using a particular frequency, that frequency becomes unusable in immediately adjacent cells, but due to ‘ground effects’ the signal drops off rapidly. A couple of cells away, someone else can be using the same frequency for their cellphone call and the two won’t interfere it all.

A call from high-altitude doesn’t have the same ‘ground effect’; The signal will reach hundreds of cells over a wide area at full strength, blocking that channel for all of those cells. A few dozen people using cellphones in aircraft could easily tie up all available cellphone frequencies for a whole city.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: One sided conversation

Don’t airlines already provide in-flight phone calls for a fee. So much for the one sided conversation rationale.

How does that invalidate “only hearing half of the conversation is more annoying“? All I can see is how it shows that airlines are willing to annoy passengers in order to make a buck (which we already knew).

Darksurf says:

Its like our countries politicians are getting dumber and dumber. And it also seems our country can’t seem to keep up with our own advances in technology. These people who think they’re so smart keep making themselves looks stupid, why?
Because They’re above us on the social ladder, and they have power over what we can and cannot do. And if makes them feel good to take something and rub it in our faces.

Can we get some EDUCATED people with some common sense in our government please!

Anonymous Coward says:

No More Lies

I’m not one of those who believes that the end justifies the means and have never liked the way the FAA keeps lying about the real reason for the cell phone ban. Lying is lying. After all, people use cell phones on private aircraft everyday without incident. Are we to believe that public airliners are that much worse built or maintained than private ones? If so, then the FAA has bigger problems to deal with than cell phones.

However, I’m also glad that cell phone use is banned on scheduled flights in the US and hope that it stays that way. With this law hopefully the FAA will quit lying and just say that cell phones are banned because the law says so and leave it at that.

William C Bonner (profile) says:

What about planes with built in phones?

If the purpose of the ban is to not annoy people in the plane, what about planes with built in phones? (I admit that I’ve not flown on one of those planes recently so I don’t know if they still exist)

I watched an episode of Top Gear recently that pointed out that it was tremendously rude, and not acceptable to talk on a cell phone on a bus or train. (Possibly in any public space?)

I think the real problem is that we are trying again to legislate morals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Jurisdictional Reach

I wouldn’t say the ‘menace’ is non-existent. I thought the Hang Up Act was just the usual American trick of extending jurisdictional reach. European carriers are almost certainly going to implement in-flight mobile-phone systems. This is all fine and dandy within Europe. The Hang Up Act is likely to affect transatlantic flights that start, end or pass through the USA. Calls will have to be prevented throughout the flight, even within European air space, or the carriers will get huge fines or their executives sent to prison or something similar. The same will apply to any other part of the world that allows in-flight calls.

John (profile) says:


which forbids “voice communications using communications devices on scheduled flights.”
Like the point poster #20 brought up, if this new law really tried to ban “voice communications” to stop one-sided communications, how will it affect in-flight phones provided by the airline? You know, the phones in the back of the seat that charge something like $5 a minute to use? Will those be banned to save people from the one-sided-talking annoyance?

On the other hand, maybe it’s a slow law day for Congress and they needed to work on something with a catchy name.

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