Gov't Revives Possibility of Voice Calls On Planes
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday proposed rules that could eventually pave the way for making voice calls on airplanes. Current regulations from the FCC ban cellular voice calls on airplanes, but the FCC's laws don't apply to WiFi-based calls. Many of today's smartphones are capable of making calls via WiFi, and many of the country's air carriers offer in-flight WiFi. The DOT believes technology will soon be good enough (and the cost low enough) for air carriers to offer WiFi-based calling on their aircraft. The DOT's new angle here is that in-flight calling might be permissible as long as passengers are fully informed about the voice call capabilities of their flight before it is booked. "Consumers deserve to have clear and accurate information about whether an airline permits voice calls before they purchase a ticket and board the aircraft," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. "[Our] proposal will ensure that air travelers are not unwillingly exposed to voice calls, as many of them are troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cell phones in flight." When the FCC explored the idea of in-flight calls in depth, the vast majority of consumers voiced opposition to the idea. The DOT now believes that WiFi-based calls could be permitted as long as everyone is adequately informed and given the opportunity to arrange different travel options. The DOT will accept comments on the idea for 60 days, and emphasized that a full ban of all in-flight calls is still on the table. It will be up to individual airlines to offer such services if they are permitted.
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