ABC POOL - AP CLIENTS ONLY
Washington DC - December 12, 2013
1. SOUNDBITE: (English) Thomas Wheeler, Chairman,
"We are going to continue. We are proposing to consider to continue the ban on mobile devices that can interfere with terrestrial networks. But where there is new on-board technology that eliminates that potential for interference, then there is no need for an interference rule. This is the responsible thing to do. Where the rationale for a rule doesn't exist, the rule shouldn't exist. We are the expert technical agency, and new technology removes the technical justification of this rule. In that regard, I should mention that I have spoken with Transportation Secretary Foxx this morning, and he has told me that, yes, the FCC is the technical agency and that the Department of Transportation is the aviation agency, and that they will be moving on a rule to address voice calls on airplanes. I'm the last person in the world who wants to listen to somebody talking to me while I fly across the country, but we are the technical agency, and we will make the technical rules that reflect the way the new technology works."
As one part of the federal government looks to remove restrictions on making phone calls from airplanes, another agency is apparently considering its own prohibition.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler told members of Congress that while his agency sees no technical reason to ban calls on planes, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told him Thursday morning that the DOT will be moving forward with its own restrictions.
Wheeler called his proposal to rescind the ban "the responsible thing to do."
Calls have been prohibited for 22 years over fears that they would interfere with cellular networks on the ground.
Technological advances had resolved those concerns.
"When the rationale for a rule doesn't exist, the rule shouldn't exist," Wheeler told members of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee.
Wheeler said he's called the CEOs of major airlines, telling them that the government isn't requiring them to allow calls.
Ultimately, the decision will rest with individual airlines.
"I'm the last person in the world who wants to listen to somebody talking" while flying across the country, Wheeler said.
The DOT, which includes the Federal Aviation Administration, wasn't immediately available for comment.