The FCC has made it clear that it favors removing most restrictions on the use of cellphones in flight. From the Commission's standpoint, it's a technological issue. And since the technological barriers to inflight calls no longer exist, the restrictions should be lifted.
Accordingly, the FCC has adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that "would give airline carriers the ability to allow passengers to use their mobile wireless devices, such as cellphones, to access data, texting, and/or voice services while flying above 10,000 feet."
The next step in lifting the restrictions would be to publish the Notice in the Federal Register, after which there will be a 30-day period for comments from interested parties.
In spite of the fact that the official comment period has yet to begin, consumers are already making their opinions known on the issue of voice calls. To date, the FCC has posted 413 unsolicited comments on its website. And the comments are overwhelmingly negative.
Some examples from the FCC website:
It would produce a cacophony! People speak loudly, most often on their mobile phones, and they would be especially apt to do so when it is already noisy, as is the case on an airplane.
Flying already can be a less-than-fully-civilized experience. I, and many other frequent flyers with whom I am friends, would definitely fly less frequently (and thereby provide less stimulus to the economy) if people are allowed to take their devices off of 'airplane mode' while in flight.
I AM BEGGING YOU!!! Please DO NOT allow voice calls on flights. This isn't an issue of technology this is an issue of comfort and courtesy.
Air travel has become difficult enough as it is. Please don't make it worse!
Please no cell phone use on flights!
As a passenger, I deserve the right to have some quiet during my confinement on the plane.
It is disruptful and will lead to altercations between passengers. Most people do not realize how loudly they talk in that type of environment and will undoubtedly disturb, interrupt, and/or offend those around.
I oppose the FCC allowing the use of cell phone voice calling on aircraft in flight, except in emergency situations. This isn't just an issue of comfort or courtesy, it's one of safety. In cramped airline cabins, passions already run high. Even when people try to talk quietly on mobile phones, they speak more loudly than they expect because of a lack of sidetone and overcompensation for background noise. Loud mobile phone conversations could dramatically increase the prevalence of "air rage," endangering the lives of passengers and crew.
And so it goes. I was unable to find a single comment favoring voice calls.
Assuming the FCC overturns the restrictions, the decision to support inflight cell calls will be the airlines'—if, that is, the Department of Transportation doesn't impose a ban from the federal level.
In any case, the FCC's decision is hardly the final word on what ultimately becomes policy or practice.
If consumers have their way, the FCC's deliberations will have stirred a heated debate, but little else.
Reader Reality Check
Do you support travelers' right to use their cellphones inflight?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.