Remember when airplanes had telephones in seat backs rather than LCD TVs? Expensive to use ($6 a minute seems to ring a bell), they were used sparingly (very sparingly) by most travelers. The ones still in existence are operated by Verizon.
Now the FCC is planning to auction off (everybody loves an auction!) the airwaves reserved for phones embedded in airplane seats -- May 10 looks to be the starting date.
The upside? Multi-faceted it seems to me. More money for cash-strapped airlines, cheaper phone service for travelers and broadband Internet access during flights.
Another benefit? With the greater freedom to make calls during flights, we no longer will see everyone on the plane whip out their cell phones when the flight attendant gives the "all clear."
The downside? You guessed it -- more chatter and another place where you can't be left alone.