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FCC Maintains the Ban on Inflight Voice Calls

The proposal, which had languished for years, faced strong opposition from the flying public in the US

by Business Traveler

December 4, 2020

The Federal Communications Commission has left unchanged the existing rules banning inflight mobile phone calls. In ending the proceedings that were started in 2013 to consider lifting ban, the FCC cited “strong opposition” to the proposed changes from airline pilots, flight attendants and a majority of US travelers.

The FCC said in its order it could not “determine any reasonable solution that would strike an appropriate balance of competing interests.”

The order ending the proceedings stated, “We find that, given the state of the record, it would not serve the public interest or be a wise use of the agency’s limited resources to continue to pursue this rulemaking proceeding.”

First proposed by the FCC in 2013, the plan would have seen the introduction of inflight mobile phone calls and data service above 10,000 feet. Ever since, the proposal has been a subject of intense debate.

In addition to strong opposition from airline pilots and flight attendants, who argued there were significant safety and national security implications, a 2018 Nielsen survey of 8,000 travelers found 89 percent of Americans said they were opposed, citing potential nuisance and disturbance.

While the ban will be maintained, existing FCC regulations do not cover Voice over Internet Protocol, according to Business Insider, referencing the US Department of Transportation. However, most airlines do not allow the use of VoIP applications such as FaceTime, Skype, and WhatsApp via inflight WiFi.