Don’t plan on making a cellphone call on a plane any time soon. Though the Federal Communications Commission is in the process of allowing expanded use of phones while up in the air, the Department of Transportation plans to stop fliers from fully taking advantage of that, according to The Wall Street Journal. The DOT reportedly plans to propose a rule this December that would prohibit making and receiving in-flight cellphone calls. The public would be able to submit feedback on that proposal, which would then be factored in to the final rule.
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. “At this point, there is no final determination” as to what the notice or the final rule will say, said another spokeswoman. 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.