Several days ago I reported that the inflight use of 3G and 4G mobile data plans. This follows US approval of gate-to-gate use of electronics.
Lifting the Department of Transportation’s ban on electronics did not allow for the inflight use of a phone’s cellular or data connectivity. That ban was under the authority of the FCC.
Now it turns out that the FCC is considering lifting its ban, which would then leave it up to individual airlines whether or not to allow cell phones onboard — for data and for voice.
If the Government Allows Inflight Cell Phone Use, What Would Happen?
Does this mean you’re going to have to listen to your bloviating seatmate talking about the big deal they’re trying to close? or talking to their paramour?
That’s the awful future that many flyers fear. But it could also mean the chance to say last words to the dying relative’s bedside you’re flying to be next to, but are just a few hours too late — or to hear a child’s first words while checking in at home.
Clearly there’s upsides to communication at the same time there’s a cost to solitude.
How will the airlines handle this?
Different airlines will adopt different rules, to gain competitive advantage and appeal to customers in different ways, and if there’s enough demand on one side a uniformity may develop.
For now, Delta has already said no way, no how. JetBlue is more likely to accommodate … but probably do it in a way similar to Amtrak which offers quiet cars.
And how much use would this get? Airfones are gone from many planes because they simply weren’t used, of course those were more expensive. But text is replacing voice, and may be especially attractive in the skies since reception isn’t often great up in the air anyway (airlines could install technology to relay cell signals and improve this).
Will Onboard Cell Phone Use Actually Happen?
FCC ‘consideration’ of lifting the ban is not the same as actually lifting it.
Much lobbying will ensue. Cell phone providers might have something to say about this, they see it as costly to them. Many consumer groups will object.
The FCC tried to do this once before, nearly a decade ago, and that got shot down
For now, we have a hearing to be followed by a proposed rulemaking and a comment period all before getting to a final rule. Many things can happen between now and then, and it’s months away at the earliest.
Me, I’d just like not to have to turn off my cell phone’s data during taxi and takeoff, gotta get those last emails out before I switch to inflight internet!