FCC Scraps In-Flight Mobile Phone Proceeding

FCC's 2020 seal
(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC has voted to terminate its Expanding Access to Mobile Wireless Services Onboard Aircraft proceeding.

Back in November 2013, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler circulated an item proposing use of in-flight mobile broadband, after which he got some pushback from Capitol Hill as well as many in the airline industry. Wheeler clarified that the FCC item was about the technical feasibility of in-flight phone calls and data and that the airlines would make the ultimate decision about phone use, but the criticism continued and the item gained no traction.

Related: Clyburn Says Marketplace Would Set In-Flight Phone Policies

In 2017, Ajit Pai signaled he planned to scrap the Wheeler proposal, circulating an order to that effect. With the clock running out on his tenure as chairman, the commission has finally voted to terminate the proceeding.

"The record is insufficient to determine any reasonable solution that would strike an appropriate balance of competing interests. There is strong opposition to the Commission’s proposals from many commenters in this proceeding, including our nation’s airline pilots and flight attendants, who argue that it 'fail[s] to address significant safety and national security concerns.'" The FCC said that "given the state of the record, it would not serve the public interest or be a wise use of the agency’s limited resources to continue to pursue this rulemaking proceeding."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.