FCC's Pai Pulls Plug on Plane Phone-Use Item

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said Monday he plans to scrap his predecessor's proposal to relax rules on cell phone use on planes.

Pai has circulated an order the would close the proceeding.

Former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler caught a lot of flak for his proposal, launched early in his tenure and essentially grounded after pushback from many quarters, something Pai pointed to in announcing the move.

“I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes," he said. "I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest.  Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”

Back in November 2013, Wheeler circulated an item to expand access and choice of in-flight mobile broadband, after which he got some pushback from Capitol Hill. He clarified that the FCC item was about the technical feasibility of in-flight phone calls but that the airlines would make the ultimate decision about phone use, but the criticism continued and the item gained no traction.

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.