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The DOT Weighing in on Ban of In-Flight Voice Calls

August 08, 2014

By Frank Griffin, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Looking at your smartphone you have to be in awe at all the technology that is inside that small device making your life more manageable, that is until you are next to a person to whom the concept of volume control has completely elude them while talking on their device. If you are out in public you have the option of walking away from such a person and avoid the noise pollution, but what if it is happening at 35,000 ft. and you are trapped with this same individual in a plane. There are of course many scenarios which most of us will contemplate but not carry out, but if the Department of Transportation (DOT) has anything to say about it, it is moving closer to formalizing rules barring in-flight phone calls.

Unlike the U.S., most countries around the world and their airlines allow different levels of voice calls during flights, and using that argument most carriers are urging the government to let them make the decision whether they should allow voice calls while in flight.

The DOT is pursuing plans to make the ban on in-flight calls formal with a notice of proposed rulemaking for publication in December. This decision will only affect voice calls and not data usage on airplanes, which has been welcomed by passengers.

This all came about when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) proposed overturning technical rules barring in-flight cell phone in December, which was in place for more than 20 years. Although the FCC hasn't formally changed the rule, the decision it made sent ripples through the aviation industry leading many customer to show their outrage during an FCC hearing. If the DOT makes a decision regarding this issue, it would supersede any changes the FCC makes.

Until recently passengers in the U.S. were overwhelmingly against in-flight phone use, but a recent survey conducted by GetVoIP of more than 2,000 people across different demographics has revealed most Americans don't care if their fellow passengers are talking on their phone. According to the survey 46.3 percent are in the don't care either way camp, while 37.5 percent said they opposed lifting the ban, with 16 percent saying they are in favor of it.

Whether the FCC or the DOT change their minds to allow passenger to talk on planes, the final say so ultimately falls on the airlines, and as Delta Air and Jet Blue have indicated, their policies will remain the same regardless of what takes place.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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