Congress: No Cell Calls in Planes

I just reported on a big case of an administrative agency and Congress opposing each other in their regulatory decisions. Now, there’s another. Though the FAA and FCC may have been moving to allow internet and cell phone use during drudgerous airplane flights, Congress wants to ensure that said privilege is only enjoyed by bus and train travellers.

The EU allows cell phone use during flights and no planes have dropped from the sky as a result. But Congress wants to preserve the wonderful aesthetics of airplane flight by ensuring that we don’t have to listen to other people’s phone conversations on the flight – unless, of course, they pay hefty fees for an AirPhone call. Never mind that cell phone service (or lack thereof) would become a basis on which carriers compete. Some would ban noisy conversations, while others may relegate cell users to special sections or make them pay fees that would subsidize everyone else’s flights. Those who are willing – either for entertainment reasons or to turn dead time into productive time – to pay for such a service should not be prohibited from getting it.

Why the government feels the need to act like the nannies of airline passengers more than it acts that way to any other group (except, perhaps, the poor) is beyond me.