FCC Chairman Himself Thinks In-Flight Phone Calls Are a Bad IdeaS

After yesterday's very promising news that the FCC is (finally) considering allowing passengers to use their smartphones in the air, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wants folks to know that he personally doesn't love the idea of sitting amid constant phone chatter on a long flight. You and the rest of us, Mr. Wheeler.

On Thursday, alongside the official FCC proposal to expand in-flight mobile wireless services, Wheeler sounded enthusiastic about changing what are, truthfully, some very antiquated regulations:

Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues, the FAA, and the airline industry on this review of new mobile opportunities for consumers.

But in another statement just a day later, he clarifies that, like most of us, he would rather airplanes remain free of loud and annoying phone chatter:

We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself. Ultimately, if the FCC adopts the proposal in the coming months, it will be airlines’ decisions, in consultation with their customers, as to whether to permit voice calls while airborne.

Why did Wheeler take the time to point that out? The AP suggests that the FCC was flooded with complaints from folks who don't want to overhear other people's phone calls while trapped in a metal tube for hours on end. Which is valid. And Wheeler's underlying point is that, even if the FCC formally approves in-flight calls, it will be up to individual airlines to decide whether to allow it. [FCC via Engadget]