House committee approves bill banning in-flight cell phone conversations

Cell Phone Usage on Airplanes

(CNN) — A bill banning cell phone calls during flights was approved Tuesday, February 11, 2014 by the House Transportation Committee.

The bill’s sponsor, committee chairman Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pennsylvania, said the confines of an airplane force passengers unwittingly to listen to the conversations of fellow fliers, and that’s why banning in-flight voice communications is necessary.

“My message is simple when it comes to cellphones on planes: tap, don’t talk,” he said in an op-ed published Monday in The Hill.

The Transportation Committee’s approval of Shuster’s bill follows moves by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lift a decades-old ban on cell phone use on aircrafts. The FCC says new technology has made the previous ban concerning technical issues obsolete.

When the FCC announced last year its plans toward lifting the ban, the Department of Transportation, responsible for safe air travel as well as protecting the rights of air travelers, and members of Congress sought to block the move.

The FCC proposal would allow calls, texts and other mobile device services when the aircraft is flying above 10,000 feet, but not during takeoff and landing, and would ultimately allow commercial airlines to decide whether to allow the cell phone use.

The bill approved by the Transportation Committee Tuesday would allow for use of mobile and tablet devices, but no voice communications.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, have also introduced bills barring cell phone conversations on commercial airline flights. The Association of Flight Attendants also opposes lifting the cell phone ban.

A Quinnipiac University poll released in December indicated that 59% of Americans didn’t want the use of cell phones on airplanes, with only three in ten in favor of lifting the ban. A mute button is also strong option among those polled.

CNN’s Mike Ahlers and Katia Hetter contributed to this report.

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