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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Hmmm, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:02am

    Oh, look at that.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Hmmm, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:03am

    Oh, look at that.

    Congress is beating a dead horse.

     

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  3.  
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    Alex, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:03am

    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.

     

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  4.  
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    jdeath, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:20am

    how special

    so how much is this going to cost taxpayers? With a budget defecit of most of a trillion dollars this year.... What we really need is a law to keep pilots from yapping on their cell phones while flying!
    This is why we need libertarians in charge...

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:21am

    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?

     

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  6.  
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    Odl Guy, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:22am

    Only way

    The only way to truly fix all this crap is thru a benevolent dictatorship... and yes I volunteer

     

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  7.  
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    Jake, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:26am

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't talk of lifting the ban on cellphone use in airliners stem from advances in transceiver technology that mean the risk of mobile phones interfering with aircraft systems is now negligible?

     

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  8.  
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    Woadan, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:26am

    I actually think this one may have some benefits. If there is a law against it, then the fee-hungry airlines can't come up with a phone-free zone and charge me $50 to have a seat in it. Nor can they charge me $50 to be in the phone-use zone.

    Woadan

     

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  9.  
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    Casper, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:27am

    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...

     

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  10.  
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    Chris, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:31am

    Two things I don't get...

    Is this not a wireless interference issue anymore?? Am I ok to use my 3G in-flight.

    Second, why did Congress not petition Pelosi to block a vote on this redundantly enforced issue? Yup, she should keep her seat.

     

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  11.  
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    another mike, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 11:39am

    fee'd to death

    It would be more profitable to install a picocell on the plane and charge an extortionate roaming fee.

     

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  12.  
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    Brian, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    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.

     

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  13.  
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    2010, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 12:23pm

    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.

     

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  14.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Aug 1st, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    Actually

    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.

     

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  15.  
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    Ben, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 12:42pm

    Throat Mic?

    So does that mean that if i have no voice and have to use a throat mic which might be considered "voice communications using communications devices on scheduled flights". What it a need a pillow?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 12:42pm

    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.

    Surprised?

     

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  17.  
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    limaxray, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 12:46pm

    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'.

     

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  18.  
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    You're full of crap, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 12:50pm

    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.

    Surprised?

     

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  19.  
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    zcat, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 12:53pm

    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.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 1:10pm

    One sided conversation

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

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Jim, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 1:15pm

    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.

     

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  22.  
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    Overcast, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 1:19pm

    Another fine example of tax dollars hard at work.

     

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  23.  
    icon
    JS Beckerist (profile), Aug 1st, 2008 @ 2:23pm

    Re:

    It's a way to grab attention to your cause. Childish and unprofessional as it seems, it happens allllll the time.

    Now if only I remembered any examples...! (Read: Too lazy to look it up)

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Tony, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 2:37pm

    Re:

    I'd say most elected officials ARE mentally deficient. They definitely don't think like normal people.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 4:17pm

    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).

     

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  26.  
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    Darksurf, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 4:23pm

    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!

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 4:36pm

    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.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    William C Bonner, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 7:28pm

    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.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    William C Bonner, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 7:30pm

    Re: What about planes with built in phones?

    Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention that the bus or train had been in Japan.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    ike, Aug 2nd, 2008 @ 1:31am

    "Voice communication" is rather broad

    They've just banned screen-reading technology, podcasts, and listening to prerecorded radio shows.

    All are forms of (one-way) communication that result in no sound pollution when earphones are used.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2008 @ 12:41pm

    What's next, banning calls in branded communities?

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2008 @ 12:52pm

    Re:

    They've just banned screen-reading technology, podcasts, and listening to prerecorded radio shows.
    Maybe you should actually read the law before embarrassing yourself with such ignorant comments.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2008 @ 5:44pm

    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.

     

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  34.  
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    John, Aug 3rd, 2008 @ 12:38pm

    Hmm

    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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  35.  
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    Eldakka, Aug 3rd, 2008 @ 9:21pm

    FCC and FAA are government agencies...

    therefore they can change their regulations at any time they please to make in-flight mobile calls legal.

    However, if an act is passed, then they cannot change their minds and make it legal in the future without having that act rescinded/modified by the legislature.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2008 @ 12:06pm

    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?

     

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