The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court, issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Regulatory Bulletin.
The FCC released a Q&A on its proposal to Expand Consumer Access to Inflight Mobile Services that will be considered at its December 12, 2013, Open Meeting. See November 14, 2013 Regulatory Mix. For example:
- Q: What has the FCC proposed?
- A: The FCC plans to invite public comment on a proposal that, if adopted, would give airline carriers the ability to allow passengers to use their mobile wireless devices, such as cellphones, to communicate with cellular frequency equipment while flying above 10,000 feet.
- Q: Does this mean the FCC approves of making phone calls on airplanes?
- A: Ultimately, if the FCC adopts new rules, it will be the airlines’ decision, in consultation with their customers whether to permit the use of data, text and/or voice services while airborne. It does not mean the Commission has endorsed phone calls from airplanes. Technology exists that would allow airlines to elect to allow voice and/or data service. We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. Ultimately, if the FCC adopts new rules in the coming months, it will be the airlines’ decisions, in consultation with their customers, about whether to permit consumers to use data, text, and/or voice services while airborne.
In response to the public reaction to FCC’s proposal, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released a second statement stressing that if the FCC adopts the proposal it “will be only a technical advisory, an update to our rules” and that it would be left up to the airlines to decide whether to offer the service. “We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself,” Mr. Wheeler stated. “Ultimately, if the FCC adopts the proposal in the coming months, it will be airlines’ decisions, in consultation with their customers, as to whether to permit voice calls while airborne.” See the Chairman’s comments here.
Commissioner Clyburn also issued a statement stating in part that “Government has well defined roles concerning the safety and security of Americans. But when it comes to providing a reasonable zone of silence, things are not so well defined. I think it’s best to let competition and the marketplace regulate passenger engagements in flight. For while it is impossible for us to impose a gag rule on the flying public, I feel certain the airlines can, and will, find a workable solution.”