Business Phone Systems Featured Article

Ready for a Tube of Loud Talkers Hurtling Through the Air?




December 20, 2013


By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

The media is all abuzz over the latest movement in the airline world – the FCC (News - Alert) may actually overturn the ban on cell phone use on airplanes. If you’re one of the millions of people who have to travel on a regular basis, you may see this as a blessing or a curse. Time spent on the plane could be important for business calls, but it may also be a time to relax and reflect before you make it to that next meeting.

Believe it or not, it’s actually quite the controversial topic. While some believe passengers should have the right to do as they wish with a smartphone in the air (Alec Baldwin, anyone?), others feel it would be beyond annoying to have a plane full of rude conversationalists.

But is it the federal government’s role to dictate how we should behave in public? Are we that out of control that we can’t make polite decisions or do things that benefit those around us instead of the other way around? This isn’t the same thing as laws put in place to protect the masses or prevent chaos. Oh wait – we’re talking about a small tube full of people talking too loudly on a cellphone – chaos commence.

A recent Business Insider post took a look at the topic from the standpoint of freedom. In a country where we are constitutionally protected with the freedom of speech, to bear arms, to seek happiness – we actually have quite a few laws that are meant to control how we act. The FCC ban on cell phone usage while a plane is in flight is 22 years old. No, that’s not a typo: 22 years.

Of course, the age of the ban has more to do with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) believing in-flight calls caused crashes. Now that they have finally discovered that calls don’t actually cause the plane to crash, Congress is taking a step back and wondering whether or not the FCC should continue its ban. The agency voted 3-2 to consider lifting it, but it’s not an immediate reversal. The decision included taking a year to gather public opinion before making a decision.

If this decision doesn’t go the way of the wishes of the Department of Transportation (DoT), however, a new ban may be instated. This governing agency doesn’t want to see calls allowed on flights, even if the FCC rules that it will allow airlines to decide on their own guidelines. If the aforementioned chaos were to break out due to too many loud talkers, they may have a valid argument.

In fact, plain old annoyance is one reason Congress is considering a bipartisan ban for in-flight conversations. One sponsor of the bill, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), told CNN that snoring adults and crying babies caused enough commotion on flights and phone calls would only make things worse. This kind of government involvement seems a little odd for a Republican. If successful, Shuster is considering next taking this legislation to texting moviegoers.

This is one of the problems with the current federal government structure – the belief that the American people and a free market can’t decide things on their own; that they completely lack the capacity to take matters into their own hands for positive change. If travelers don’t want voice calls on planes, they’ll communicate that to airlines through ticket sales and airlines will make their policies according to the demands of the consumer base. The opposite it also true – especially if the majority are business travelers who could use the time for productive calls.

For the moviegoers that don’t find the movie more entertaining than the text message on their phones, as long as it’s on silent and they’re sitting at the top row, who cares? If their bright phone light is in the eyes of the patron behind them, something should be politely said so that both parties can enjoy the intended experience. Passing a law to try to enforce proper behavior won’t result in proper behavior – just more laws.

So who’s responsibility it is to decide whether or not voice conversations should take place on a plane? Now that the FAA can step out of the conversation – no pun intended – to allow safe flight regardless of cellular activity, is it necessary to direct more federal resources toward an issue that could be decided by adults? Or, are travelers on a plane mere toddlers without the capacity to decide on behavior and they may end up hijacking the plane because the passenger in seat 5D was too loud on his smartphone?

This suggested legislation is akin to the school principal my son had in elementary school. My son was born shortly before Columbine and by 9-11 he was a first-grader. School safety was a major issue and stringent rules were put in place to protect the kids. The problem was that most of the administration at that time couldn’t see beyond the letter of the law and administered judgments without common sense. As a result, everything was a big deal, an emergency necessary of bringing in the police officer. It did little more than scare the students involved and make a lot of parents mad.

The FCC, the FAA and the DoT need to simply step aside and let commerce take care of commerce. If not, I’m going to tell my dad. 


Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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