U.S. FCC chair wants to end effort to allow cellphone use in air

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said on Monday he is proposing to end a 2013 regulatory proceeding that had sought to lift the ban on mobile phones on U.S. airlines.

FILE PHOTO: Ajit Pai, Chairman of U.S Federal Communications Commission, delivers his keynote speech at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

The FCC said in 2013 that it would consider allowing air travelers to make mobile phone calls but never finalized it.

“I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes. I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

Pai needs the backing of the two other commissioners for the 2013 proposal to be formally abandoned.

In 2013, the FCC said special equipment could be installed on planes to allow in-flight calls and said it had already been deployed successfully in other countries without incident.

The FCC under then chairman Tom Wheeler said there were “no

technical reasons to prohibit such technology to operate” but proposed leaving it to airlines whether to allow mobile phone calls.

In 2013, Pai said Wheeler’s proposal would likely require airlines to become commercial mobile radio station carriers to offer in-flight calling.

The U.S. Transportation Department said in December that it was considering allowing passengers to make in-flight calls using Wi-Fi. The agency also sought comment on whether it should ban all voice calls on all U.S. flights.

Last month, major airlines said the Trump administration should delay action on the in-air mobile call proposal as it reviews other pending regulatory issues.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama