SOME SENSITIVE legislators in the US House of Representatives apparently think mobile phones should remain banned on airplanes because their owners are sometimes annoying.
Several members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee traded their personal anecdotes about having been subjected to obnoxious cellphone users whilst their planes were on the tarmac during flights back and forth between their home districts and Washington, DC.
On planes in the US, mobile phones may be used before takeoff and after landing but not during flights. The prohibition on inflight use is currently set to expire at some future date.
One humble servant of the people talked about his (presumably delicate) wife's discomfort at finding herself seated next to a woman who talked loudly about her sex life on her cell.
Another committee member one-upped that with his story about the bloke next to him who received a "Dear John" call from his wife or girlfriend just before takeoff. He said that the poor sod's abject begging and pleading was terribly embarrassing to have to hear, and that a flight attendant had to threaten to have the man arrested before he finally hung up.
Yet a third representative trumped the whole discussion by saying she had seen a man use the camera in his mobile phone to take photos of an airplane's " sensitive" interior, raising the dreaded spectre of a potential threat of (gasp!) terrorism.
On that note, the assembled lawgivers apparently had heard quite enough. By just a voice vote, the committee approved a bill that would direct the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make the present ban on inflight mobile phone use permanent. Strangely, it didn't seem to occur to any of them that those incidents mentioned all happened under the existing ban on inflight cellphone use and that similar occurances would not be prevented by making the ban permanent.
Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from (the politically correct People's Republic of) Portland, Oregon and sponsor of the Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace (HANG UP) Act, said "I do believe this is important that we don't make what is already a crowded and difficult environment for the traveling public and flight attendants" worse by allowing inflight cell phone use.
However, Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican, observed that there are many annoyances on airplanes that can't be prevented by just passing laws. Mica said, "You are trying to legislate courtesy, folks, and that just doesn't work."
The European Union has plans to allow passengers to use their mobile phones inflight and some airlines are already trialing technology to facilitate that. Should the US make its ban on inflight cellphone use permanent, it risks being left behind the rest of the world in this too, as it already is in other areas, like affordable health care and broadband adoption. µ
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