updated 12:00 pm EDT, Fri August 1, 2008
House Decides In-Air Ban
The Congressional Transportation and Infrastructure committee voted yesterday to introduce a bill to the House of Representatives that will potentially outlaw nearly all use of active cellphones on any commercial aircraft. Nicknamed the Hang Up Act, the measure would ban placing or receiving voice calls for all but the crew as well as for any air marshals aboard a given flight. Democrat Peter DeFazio, who proposed the bill, describes the possibility of allowing voice calls an "annoyance" and that an attempt to profit from these calls to make up for a poor economy would be ill-advised.
Critics, including Republican John Mica, agree that in-air calls are impolite but don't believe that legislating against them would be productive. "You are trying to legislate courtesy, folks, and that just doesn't work," he says. The Federal Aviation Administration already has its own ban but is allowed to reverse it.
The Act would still allow any non-voice access through the phones, including sending text and media messages through the cellular network as well as mobile data access, including over Wi-Fi inside the cabin.
Cellphone use has only become an issue with the advancement of technology that establishes a cellular transceiver in the airplane itself. The device serves as a router for cellphones aboard the plane and reduces the strength of the potentially interference-inducing wireless signal used by each phone, which would otherwise have to boost their reception to reach towers on the ground.
Future in-flight access is more likely to revolve around Internet services such as AirCell, which use 3G and eventually 4G cellular access to feed a Wi-Fi network for passengers. [image via Flickr]