WASHINGTON Feb 11 Responding to a public outcry
after U.S. regulators said they would consider allowing
passengers to make cellphone calls during flights, lawmakers on
a House of Representatives panel on Tuesday overwhelmingly
advanced a bill to ban such calls.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on a
voice vote with no opposition, sent the bill to the full House.
It was unclear when it would be considered there. Similar
legislation has been introduced by a Senate committee.
The bills came in response to a move by the Federal
Communications Commission to consider lifting the prohibition on
in-flight calls within the United States, because they no longer
pose a hazard to aviation electronics.
"The prospect of sitting among dozens of people all talking
on their cellphones in a confined space raises serious safety,
if not comfort, considerations especially at a time when
passengers face less legroom, higher fees and pricey flights,"
said Representative Nick Rahall, the committee's top Democrat.
There is little controversy over allowing passengers to use
their phones or other devices to text, email or surf the
Internet while flying, but the move to possibly allow phone
conversations went too far for some.
"A chill went through the flying public and flight
attendants nationwide" when the FCC voted to consider lifting
the call ban, Rahall of West Virginia said.
Committee Chairman Bud Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican,
noted a Quinnipiac University survey in December that found 59
percent of voters oppose allowing calls on flights, with 30
percent in favor.
"This bill is simple. When it comes to cell phones on
planes, tap, don't talk," Shuster said.
The FCC's proposal would leave it up to the airlines to
decide whether to permit the calls, but the bills in Congress
would provide no such discretion. The bills include exceptions
for flight crews and federal air marshals.
After the FCC uproar U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony
Foxx also stepped in and said his department would consider
banning in-flight calls.