USA: geen mobiele telefonie in vliegtuigen

maandag, 04 augustus 2014 - Categorie: Berichten Internationaal

Bron: .
3 aug. 2014

U.S. Moves Closer to Formal Rules Barring In-Flight Cellphone Calls

The U.S. government is getting closer to its final word on whether to allow cellphone calls on airplanes. And that word appears to be ''no.''

Airlines, meanwhile, are pressing for the final decision to be left to them.

The Department of Transportation plans to pursue the next step in what could lead to a formal ban on in-flight calls, the agency's general counsel Kathryn Thomson said in a speech last week at the International Aviation Club in Washington, according to people present.

A spokeswoman confirmed that the DOT is developing ''a notice of proposed rulemaking'' for publication in December that would lay out its objections to passengers making and receiving calls. It would open the issue for further comments by industry and travelers until February before making a final ruling, according to a regulatory filing.

Regulators are focused primarily on the disruptive effects of voice calls rather than texting or other data use, having last year loosened restrictions that now allow airline passengers to use electronic devices for these purposes from gate to gate.

In December, the Federal Communications Commission proposed overturning technical rules barring in-flight cellphone use that have been in place for more than two decades. Those rules were designed to prevent interference with ground-based cellular networks, but the FCC said it believed that is no longer a concern. The FCC has yet to issue a formal rule change, but any Transportation Department rule barring voice calls would take precedence.

In February, the DOT requested public and industry comments on cellphone use. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx had already flagged the agency's opposition to in-flight calls and said he believes passengers and flight crew are overwhelmingly against in-flight phone use.

Ms. Thomson's comments are the first sign the agency is proceeding with a formal rule, airline industry officials said.

Airlines contend the Transportation Department is overstepping its authority, and should let carriers decide whether to offer cellphone service, which would require some technology investment, as a way to differentiate themselves.

''Airlines aren't clamoring to allow mobile phone use during flight, and some have already said they'd prohibit it on their own flights,'' said Jeffrey Shane, general counsel for the International Air Transport Association, and a former senior Transportation Department policymaker. But Mr. Shane said some carriers may want to explore passenger-friendly ways to introduce calls, such as in-flight phone booths or quiet zones.

Ms. Thomson wasn't available for comment.

The Transportation Department has said it would pursue any ban of in-flight calls on consumer protection grounds, under sections of transportation law that give it the authority to ensure airlines provide ''safe and adequate'' service and to protect fliers from ''unfair and deceptive practices'' by airlines. The department successfully used these laws to make a rule that fines airlines for keeping fliers on an airplane parked on a tarmac for several hours.

U.K.-based AeroMobile Communications Ltd., which provides in-flight mobile services for 13 overseas airlines, told Transportation Department officials last month that most of its users stick to texting and downloading data. Only 20% of its usage is for calls, most of which last less than two minutes. The company said its service allows only eight to 15 calls at a time, and crew can switch off the service at any time.

Overseas airlines that allow in-flight calls cease the service over U.S. airspace.

Wireless industry groups such as the Telecommunications Industry Association also have lobbied the Transportation Department, arguing that there is no need for the agency to weigh in.

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