FCC asks FAA to relax in-flight device restrictions, study under way

By on December 10, 2012, 5:00 PM

Federal Communications Commission chairman Juluis Genachowski has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to consider relaxing its strict set of policies (pdf) prohibiting the in-flight use of certain portable electronics. Specifically, the FCC would like the FAA to, "enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices".

In August, the FAA announced it would be re-evaluating its existing policies regarding the usage of portable electronics during flights. Before you frequent travelers get too excited though, the FAA study is just beginning. In other words: don't expect any near-future changes to airplane regulations regarding portable electronics or PEDs. Although plans for the FAA-led study came well before the FCC's latest request, the FCC may be counting on this being an opportune time to press its influence.

Currently, FAA regulations require all PEDs be stowed and powered off during takeoff and landing. Many of those devices -- like most tablets, portable MP3 and DVD players -- may be turned on once the plane reaches an altitude of 10,000 feet; however, PEDs with cellular radios are expected to remain off during the entirety of every flight.

While using a cellphone in-flight is an obvious violation, devices with cellular connectivity have certainly grown in numbers over the years. We now have tablets, e-book readers and swanky Ultrabooks equipped with WWAN hardware.

But let's be honest here: how many of you actually power down your smartphone during a flight as opposed to enabling "Airplane Mode" (or something analogous)? Unofficially, Airplane Mode seems acceptable, but actual regulations don't explicitly acknowledge such a mode, making it a sort of unspoken exception.

Despite recent interest PED policies, neither the FAA nor the FCC seem interested in allowing voice communications on airplanes. In August, the FAA stated that its newest policy review will not even consider voice calls in the air. Meanwhile, snippets from the FCC's letter seem to ignore mentioning cellphones and smartphones explicitly. This is probably for the best, though -- imagine being trapped on a plane for four hours in a seat adjacent to a vociferous serial phone yapper.




User Comments: 7

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ikesmasher said:

Huh, thats a change, the FCC asking someone to be more lenient.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I'd prefer that keep it the same. Problem is, people just can't leave their precious electronic toys alone once they have them fired up. Hard to get in or out of your seat when some simpleton has the row blocked off with their laptop because they need "just a few more minutes," playing WoW, especially during embarking or leaving.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Hard to get in or out of your seat when some simpleton has the row blocked off with their laptop because they need "just a few more minutes," playing WoW, especially during embarking or leaving.
Maybe they could designate a specific area for those who would prefer this service out of courtesy for those who don't.

psycros psycros said:

Hard to get in or out of your seat when some simpleton has the row blocked off with their laptop because they need "just a few more minutes," playing WoW, especially during embarking or leaving.
Maybe they could designate a specific area for those who would prefer this service out of courtesy for those who don't.

Wouldn't work - everyone would protest.

Jetliners, commuter trains and buses are among the few places that tablets actually make sense. As long as the cellular-equipped models also have "airplane mode" I don't see a problem.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Wouldn't work - everyone would protest.
Your probably right.

MilwaukeeMike said:

The biggest fans of this change would be flight attendents. Ask any flight attendent what the hardest part of their job is and there's a good chance they'll mention getting people to turn off their phones.

Best case of this I saw was a guy telling an attendent that his phone was off and getting angry that she wouldn't believe him. I glance over and his phone is in his shirt pocket glowing brightly.

TJGeezer said:

LOL - the inverse of the Dead Parrot sketch - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npjOSLCR2hE

"This phone is live!"

"No it's not. It's dead. It's almost buried."

"Not it's not - it's live, you can see the light!"

"No you can't."

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