Committee to mark up bill to ban in-flight cell phone calls

The House Transportation Committee is scheduled Tuesday to mark up a bill that would ban cellphone calls during flights.

The bill is sponsored by the panel's chairman, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.).

The measure gained momentum in the fall after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to lift its decades-old ban on in-air cell phone use. The FCC said it was making that ruling because technology has improved enough to avoid interference with phone systems on the ground.

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Shuster and another lawmakers argued that cell phone calls in flight would disturb other passengers, however.

“Let’s face it, airplane cabins are by nature noisy, crowded, and confined,” Shuster said in a statement when he introduced the bill. “For those few hours in the air with 150 other people, it’s just common sense that we all keep our personal lives to ourselves and stay off the phone.”

The discussion about the possibility of lifting the ban on in-flight phone calls followed a high-profile decision by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin relax its prohibition on portable electronic devices during flights last fall after facing pressure from lawmakers and passengers.

Shuster and other supporters of keeping the ban on cell phone calls in place argued that the impact of allowing calls would be much greater than electronic devices.