The Department of Transportation wants to formally ban in-flight phone calls.
The agency's general counsel Kathryn Thomson, said so in a speech last week at the International Aviation Club in Washington, and a spokeswoman confirmed that the DOT is developing "a notice of proposed rulemaking" for publication in December,” said the Wall Street Journal.
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, said the Wall Street Journal.
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, said the Wall Street Journal.
In February, the DOT requested public and industry comments on cellphone use.
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, said the Wall Street Journal.
"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, adding that some carriers may want to explore passenger-friendly ways to introduce calls, such as in-flight phone booths or quiet zones, the Wall Street Journa report noted.
Overseas airlines that allow in-flight calls cease the service over U.S. airspace.