The FCC: We don’t ban cell phone calls in planes. Please stay off our flight

A few years back, it sounded likely that we would be turning off our phones by the time we boarded the plane. But flights are filled today with people using cell phones, many saying they need to be there for work and the ability to call friends and family at all times.

So is the airline industry getting ready to stop cell phone use on flights? Not quite. Here’s a fascinating story in the Wall Street Journal on how much airlines and regulators are shifting their posture towards cell phone calls.

In 2007, the Department of Transportation told U.S. airlines not to allow cell phone calls during flights. That changed last year when Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and other lawmakers said they were worried about the possible interference to airplane radios, including one that guides air traffic controllers. The Federal Communications Commission was the last agency to restrict how cell phones work in the U.S. Those regulations were last updated in 1968.

Airlines as a whole and the Department of Transportation are now talking more about allowing calls, but on planes with Wi-Fi access. The airlines are also working with vendors to develop various technologies that could allow calls. Indeed, you can now expect that when I fly, many passengers will be using their phones to call friends back home.

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