GOP senator considers bill to block in-flight cellphone calls

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday that he could introduce legislation to stop the Federal Communications Commission from allowing cellphone conversations on airplanes.

“Imagine two million passengers, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts,” Alexander said in a statement. 

“The Transportation Security Administration would have to hire three times as many air marshals to deal with the fistfights.”  

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He added that airline privacy “may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but surely it is in common sense.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a proposal last week to repeal the agency's ban on cellphone use in the air. 

Wheeler has emphasized that it would be up to individual airlines to decide whether to allow in-flight calls, texts or data use. The FCC is only exploring whether its existing rule barring in-flight cell service over interference concerns is out of date, Wheeler said. 

“We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes," Wheeler said in a statement last Friday. "I feel that way myself."

But Alexander argued that the FCC shouldn't move ahead with its proposal.

“The FCC commissioners will earn the gratitude of the two million Americans who fly each day by deciding: text messages, yes; conversations, no,” he said.

The FCC is scheduled to vote on a "notice of proposed rulemaking" on the issue at its next meeting on Dec. 12. 

If a majority of the five-member commission approves the notice, the agency will begin accepting public comments.