The Federal Communications Commission is in full damage control mode after proposing Thursday that airline passengers should be able to use their cellphones in the air.
The announcement could prove to be a serious misstep for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who just took office earlier this month.
Lawmakers and the public heaped praise on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last month when it lifted its ban on using electronic devices during take-offs and landings.
While many airline passengers like being able to listen to music or play games on their devices, the idea of being stuck on a plane for hours next to someone carrying on an obnoxious conversation has prompted a dramatic backlash.
One FCC commissioner received hundreds of outraged emails within hours of the announcement, an aide said.
“Playing ‘Words with Friends’ is different than passengers having lengthy, loud ‘conversations with friends’ while in the tight, inescapable confines of an airline passenger cabin,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said the issue will “surely be a spirited topic of discussion” at next month’s oversight hearing of the FCC, which is expected to feature testimony from all five FCC commissioners.
“Like most Americans, when I heard the news that the FCC was considering allowing cell phone calls on commercial flights, I was concerned to say the least,” Walden said.
The union for flight attendants also bashed the proposal.
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