Debate Over In-Flight Calling Continues

The debate about using phones on flights has continued for a few years and currently through a mix of regulations and technology firewalls, passengers are prohibited from talking while in-flight. The USA Today reports that a coalition of manufacturers, carriers and consumer groups is trying to rally airline passengers this week to stop Congress from banning air-to-ground voice service.

The article cites comments from Rep. Peter DeFazio, who says he wants to protect travelers from the intrusion of phone calls in one of the last phone-free zones. To this I say, “How awesome is that?” Our politicians have decided where and when we can use a phone. Some may respectfully ask DeFazio, can you please focus on protecting us from job loss, crime, a falling dollar and terrorism and let us take care of the rest?

After all, the airlines already have the situation under control. When I am on a flight and sit in an exit row, I listen to a speech from a flight attendant who forces me to say “Yes” I understand that I have to help passengers in case of a water landing. Furthermore, the in-flight crew controls when I turn on and off my electronics, when I can stand, when I must fasten my seatbelt, when I can use the bathroom, when I have to pay attention to them and more.

So I ask does the Congress need to get involved in the applications I use over IP and when I use them? What is next, telling me I can’t listen to pop music over IP before sleeping? A moratorium on classical music over IP in public places and bathrooms?

Perhaps Congress will next protect us from netbooks with screens which are too small for our fragile eyes or they may save us from laptop keyboards which accumulate crumbs too quickly.

Having said that, I applaud DeFazio for jumping on an issue which will likely help him get reelected and in truth phone callers on trains can be annoying when they are loud and disrespectful to others. This doesn’t mean we can’t work out a code of conduct as a society that allows us to benefit from VoIP on planes while minimizing disturbance to others.

After all, DeFazio has yet to protect us from the dangerous practice of flying with crying babies or the treacherous business of socializing with the person in the adjoining seat. It makes we wonder though, why can I lawfully talk to a stranger in-flight and not to t my children on the ground? Is this what the government needs to protect me from? Really?

So to our politicians, I ask humbly – with nuclear proliferation challenges in Iran, rampant unemployment and a litany of other problems we have as a society, country and world, your focus is on protecting US citizens from talking on airplanes? It is embarrassing to me and explains why 68% of the country disapproves of the way Congress is handling the job.

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