By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
With everything airline passengers put up with these days – long security checkpoint lines, fees for carry-on bags, bad food – you might have to add one more: having to listen to the idiotic ring tone blaring from the cell phone of the guy sitting next to you.
Brooklyn’s lone Republican congressman came out strongly this week against a plan to allow passengers to make and receive cell phone calls on airplanes during flights, charging that easing restrictions would ruin plane rides by forcing people to listen to the incessant chatter of others.
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island) issued a statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that rather than keep the ban on cell phone use in place, it would open a public comment period. The FCC voted on Dec. 12 to consider lifting the bad, although the panel postponed a final decision until the public comment period is completed.
“I am disappointed to hear that the FCC did not outright rule to continue the ban, but I will continue to voice my opposition to the use of cell phones on planes during the public comment period. With so many people locked in a small cabin, the last thing anyone wants is to be surrounded by a bunch of people yapping on their cell phones,” Grimm said.
Besides, Grimm said, it’s not as if passengers are cut off from all communication on a flight. Under current regulations, passengers are free to send text messages and emails. “As long as you can communicate via text and email, passengers can respectfully go without voice for the few hours they are on a plane,” he said.
A poll taken by Quinnipiac University and released on Dec. 11 showed that 59 percent of Americans don't want the use of cell phones on airplanes. Only 30 percent polled said they favored lifting the ban.
“A majority of Americans oppose the idea of voice calls on planes, which is why my colleagues and I have fought hard to ban them. The safety of our flight crews and passengers should remain a top priority, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to fight for flight safety and a peaceful environment for everyone on board,” Grimm said.
The no-phone-calls-during flights rule was put in place by the FCC more than 20 years ago. At the time the ban was instituted, old cell phones, which were much larger in size than today’s models, could interfere with a plane’s instruments and cause interference for cell towers on the ground. But today’s planes are made to be insulated for interference.
Still, when the FCC recently announced that it would explore the possibility of lifting the ban, there a great deal of opposition.
Grimm and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) are leading a bipartisan congressional effort to urge the FCC to continue a ban on cell phone calls on planes. The letter they sent to the FCC was signed by 60 members of congress, according to Grimm.
Grimm is also a co-sponsor of a bill called the Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Mobile Wireless Devices Act of 2013, which was introduced on Dec. 9 by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA).
The FCC isn’t expected to issue a final ruling until sometime in 2014.