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Friday, March 23, 2007

Thank Fucking God

posted by on March 23 at 20:39 PM

The FCC is not going ahead with plans to allow cell phone use on airplanes! Holy shit, to whom do we send thank-you notes?

The Federal Communications Commission will give up on the idea of allowing cellphone use on airplanes, the chairman said, because it was not clear whether the network on the ground could handle the calls.

While the chairman, Kevin Martin, cited a technical reason on Thursday, thousands of air passengers have written to the FCC, urging rejection of the proposal because of the potential for irritating passengers.

Wait a minute… the potential for irritating passengers?

Air travel is plenty irritating enough right now, thank you very much, without people shouting into their phones. Cell phones would have made air travel unfuckingbearable. Not all travelers would have used ‘em, of course. Only the assholes—and there are not shortage of them on board an aircraft. And those folks already have plenty of ways to irritate their fellow air passengers without cell phones. They carry on inane conversations, they drag way too much crap on board, they get up and down and up and down, they slam their seats back. Allowing people to use cell phones on airplanes—“Nothing, flying. Uh-huh… What? WHAT? Sorry, lost you… What are you are doing? Uh-huh… Uh-huh… Really? Chicago…. No way! No, I got some pizza at the airport…. Uh-huh…. No. Diane did what? No way…”—would have lead to fist fights in the aisles.

Thanks, FCC. A decision like that could almost restore a person’s faith in the federal government.

RSS icon Comments


Dan all I got to say is rent Fearless with Jet Li. Its unrelentablely astounding. I literally found my chakra points again. I lost them after traveling so much to. That movie rocked me and all I got to say is Fearless. Airtravelers must be fearless.

Posted by DreadLion | March 23, 2007 9:03 PM

Dreadlion, thanks for clarifying. No air traveler should watch Fearless with Jeff Bridges. No, that's a completely different movie, one I'm sure that was never shown on any airplane. Good movie, though.

Posted by Matt from Denver | March 23, 2007 9:07 PM

Don't count your chickens, Dan. Europe is poised to approve mobiles over land. Over sea, there is no body that can forbid it. Over the US, the company that bought spectrum for air-to-ground traffic is just fine with there being no cell use in-flight, but they'll be delivering 1.5 Mbps symmetric bandwidth to the plane. Think: Skype over Wi-Fi, Vonage over Wi-Fi, and voice chat over iChat, AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, etc. So you haven't escaped.

(Muh wah ha ha.)

In Europe, unbelievably, RyanAir is equipping their entire fleet, starting to go live this summer, with mobile calling and text messaging. They'll be charging about $2.50 per minute for in-flight calls, but texting will be relatively cheap.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman | March 23, 2007 9:18 PM

what a relief. it's bad enough when people narrate the entire bus ride home. "well, we're just at the dog park now...yeah, we just turned onto first...ok, we're going up the hill, yeah, i'm pulling the cord now, i'll be there in, like, two minutes." what would it be like on a plane? "huh? oh, yeah, i think he said we were passing over nebraska."

Posted by do we have the right for you to remain silent? | March 23, 2007 9:23 PM

Every time I see Dan he's yammering away on his cellphone. Can you say projection?

Posted by rod | March 23, 2007 10:11 PM

Umm, you know airplanes already have phones, right?

Posted by Andrew Hitchcock | March 23, 2007 10:53 PM


Which is worse: Having the fat dude in the aisle seat next to you yammering at someone on their cell phone -

OR -

Having the fat dude in the aisle seat next to you yammering at YOU?

For three straight hours?

Posted by COMTE | March 23, 2007 11:23 PM

Umm, you know airplanes already have phones, right?

You're referring to AirPhones (in the seatback)? Not all airlines do; and some that once had them have removed them (Southwest, for example). They are very expensive (set-up charge plus per-minute charge), and I don't see many people using them. They certainly don't present the problem that a planeload of people with personal cellphones would -- especially since so many cell plans effectively charge the same flat rate for nation-wide "roaming."

Note that this has always been the issue that has prohibited airborne cell phone usage: on the ground, a handset can't "see" very many towers, but in the air it could contact dozens or (over a city) even hundreds of them. Multiply that by all the phones on all the planes and you have effectively jammed the system. There are potential issues with interference with avionics (which is why everything should be turned off at takeoff and landing), but so far it has been the FCC and not the FAA that has led the objection.

In the end, the airlines have discretion, and the pilot in command is the final authority. Even if it were allowed by the FCC, an airline could ban their use (could even be a marketing positive), and the pilot/crew has the authority to stop a passenger from doing anything that might be a danger to the safety of the aircraft and passengers.

Posted by Joe | March 23, 2007 11:26 PM

Having the fat dude in the aisle seat next to you yammering at YOU?

For three straight hours?

If that's really a problem for you, you need to get some social skills. I have hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles, and I can't remember a flight where that was an issue. I can think of a few times when people tried to start unwanted conversations with me but they didn't get very far. At the very least you can put on a headset and pretend to sleep, but if you want to read or get work done then you need to learn how to say "fuck off and die" in a polite way that leaves no room for second chances. Either that, or take the opportunity to mess with a stranger. Talk about your time in prison, the cannibalism practiced by your ancestors, your erotic interest in amputees, or whatever. Just don't say anything that might be remotely construed as relating to terrorism.

On the other hand, if the jackoff in the next seat is yammering on his cell phone, and that's an allowed activity, there's not a whole lot you can do. Even if he's being as considerate as possible, given the proximity of coach (or even business class) seats there's no way it can be anything but intrusive.

So three cheers for this ruling.

Posted by Joe | March 23, 2007 11:36 PM

Do you prefer an afternoon bus when 20+ neighbors sit in silence? It bums me out big time. Allowing people to talk to their loved ones or acquaintances may alleviate some stress for those that need it, and open up the cabin to a more comfortable white noise. Besides in an airplane I can't even hear two row away as it is. If you think humans in general are so annoying when they talk to their friends, why do you live in a large city and promote density?

Posted by Pedan | March 24, 2007 12:04 AM


I am the fat dude in the aisle seat next to you and I keep my counsel to myself, my mouth shut and, more to the point, my arm inside the arm rest.

Posted by Laurence Ballard | March 24, 2007 12:40 AM

Dan angry. Angry Dan.

Posted by Sean | March 24, 2007 9:38 AM

Last autumn Chicago installed the technology allowing cell phone reception underground on the Red Line subway. It's not that big a deal--but it did deny me the ability to get off the phone quickly and easily by declaring, "Sorry, we're about to go into the tunnel."

That said--geez Dan, could you possibly lighten up on the cranky already? Bitchy isn't something to fall back on now that your looks are going, going, going...

Posted by Muther Fluffer | March 24, 2007 10:12 AM

I disagree: more cranky Dan. And cell phone use on a plane ought to earn you an ejection at 30,000 feet.

Now, for "Multiply that by all the phones on all the planes and you have effectively jammed the system." That sounds like an excellent idea. If they ever allow this, I'm buying one of those illegal jammers and figuring a way to disguise it as a 3 ounce bottle of lotion.

Posted by Fnarf | March 24, 2007 10:30 AM

best flight EVER: as we were approaching take-off to new york, my seatmate smiled and handed me a note.

i am deaf. do not think i am being rude by not speaking to you. have a nice flight.

i have thought about employing this pre-emptive strike every flight since, but lack the wherewithal to pretend i cannot hear for that long.

Posted by kerri harrop | March 24, 2007 10:32 AM

Oh, Larry I don't think of you as fat at all; portly perhaps, but not fat.

Fat is someone who can't help but spill over the armrest.

And Joe@9, those sound more to me like ANTI-social skills...

Posted by COMTE | March 24, 2007 10:48 AM

This conversation really seems to date (as in you're getting old) a lot of you, including Dan. My cell phone hasn't left my hip in over five years now and most young people will soon not remember a time without them. To restrict my use on a plane, restaurant, hospital, etc. is an absurd reaction to a new technology. Wherever talking isnít against the rules, cell phone use should be allowed. Social norms will dictate appropriateness.

Posted by Gabe Global | March 24, 2007 10:50 AM

I love the fact that sometimes the comments are so much more precious than the blog post itself!

It is true that it is not that hard to discourage one's seatmates from attempting to maintain conversation with you for 3 hours. However, discouraging them from yapping on their damn cellphones? Forget it. I will not own a cellphone (for many reasons, but) precisely because they are, in general, socially disruptive.

I'm wholly in agreement with cranky Dan on this one. I truly believe more people would be harmed by allowing the use of cellphones on aircraft. I despise it when the jackass next to me all of a sudden starts talking to what seems like thin air! It freaks me out for a second every single time. Isn't it bad enough that we already have to put up with expensive food, intrusive security measures, drunks, crying babies, hygienically unsound passengers, snippy flight attendants, turbulence and flight delays? To add one more disruption to the list is, in my opinion, simply foolhardy.

Posted by ChillyMama | March 24, 2007 10:56 AM

Kerri@15: Brilliant!

Except no need to pretend you're deaf. Observe:

"I am atheist. do not think i am being rude by not believing what you believe. have a nice flight."

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | March 24, 2007 11:15 AM

And I know what you're all going to say. And here's my defense.

The ones that want to convert you will already be on their way to buggin you on the flight anyway.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | March 24, 2007 11:17 AM

#17: I'm with Cranky Dan on this one. This sentence: "To restrict my use on a plane, restaurant, hospital, etc. is an absurd reaction to a new technology. " tells me that you are the guy standing at the urinal next to me holding his phone to his ear with his left hand, because hey, why not?

Lots of new technology is perfectly annoying. Cell phones may have now edged out car alarms for the title of most annoying technological innovation of our times. One more way to pretend that the people around you in the real world aren't there and don't matter.

Here's hoping text messaging becomes the new norm. At least text messaging is quiet.

Posted by flamingbanjo | March 24, 2007 11:23 AM

i don't mind if people chat on the phone on the bus as long as it's at a decent volume. heck, i enjoy that technology has allowed me to eavesdrop and learn all kinds of juicy tidbits about other people's lives. but when it's loud and you're crammed right up against a guy planning his evening where he's gonna get "hammered" and keeps mentioning every single landmark the bus passes just to extend the conversation and keeps falling on you because he can't hold on to the railing with both hands, yeah, i get a bit irritated. at least on a bus i can pull the cord and walk the rest of the way. you can't do that on a plane.

Posted by bus rider | March 24, 2007 11:58 AM

Gabe Global @ 17:

"Young people?" My ass! My daughter and her friends, all 15-16 or so, know better than to disturb people around them with cell phone use in a public place. Maybe you don't.

As for outlawing it, It damn sure ought to be outlawed while operating motor vehicles, and there should be a bounty for ratting out violators.

Posted by ivan | March 24, 2007 12:27 PM

Luddites, the all of you! My cell phone is my only phone. If I'm talking to someone in real life, I often won't answer my phone (unless they are on their way and I need to give them directions or something important). Also, I try to talk on my phone as quietly as possible, for privacy reasons and not to disturb others.

If some of you can't handle "those young whippersnappers talking to their magic hand phone device", well tough shit, that is how technology and society advances.

Cell phones are the present and future, they represent a paradigm shift. Instead of phone numbers being tied to a location (an office, a home), they are now tied to people. I rarely have to ask for an individual these days, because only one person ever answers a number.

Posted by Andrew Hitchcock | March 24, 2007 2:07 PM

It was determined at one point that I am the second-youngest slog commenter, and I am also a computer engineer. A luddite I'm not. But I agree that in scenarios where people are stuck in close proximity to each other for a length of time, like on planes, trains, and intercity buses, there at least need to be rules about not disturbing other passengers, and people to enforce them. Too often this isn't the case, as with the drunkards singing on the entire hourlong train ride I took last night. Given how much flying sucks already, and how financially stretched all the airlines are, I don't see them hiring and carting around more flight attendants in order to enforce sanity on planes; so I must agree with Dan.

Posted by Noink | March 24, 2007 3:28 PM

Andrew, I think you are the most naive of young people. I understand that your phone is your only phone, the beauty of the technology, etc. And you obviously have excellent, well thought-out cell phone manners. If everyone were like you, it would be a no-brainer.


My partner works for Amtrak, mostly on the trains between Seattle and Portland. Cell phones are allowed on the line, but they ask that people take extended conversations out to the vestibules in each car. Regardless of that, every trip he has to deal with morons who insist on carrying on loud, extended phone conversations about the most personal aspects of their life, much to the chagrin of their fellow travelers.

New technology is great - but that doesn't mean it's right for every occassion. Would you really want to sit next to me on an airplane while I talk to my sister about my mother's incontinence issues?

Posted by catalina vel-duray | March 24, 2007 4:40 PM

Catalina #26. The last time I took the train, the people behind me insisted on carrying on loud, extended conversations about the most personal aspects of their lives with each other! What's the effiní difference? Everyone here needs to invest in headphones or learn a little self awareness and realize that trying to regulate the behavior of others is a fool's game.

Posted by Gabe Global | March 25, 2007 10:29 AM

Gabe's right. We can't let a few assholes ruin something for the rest of us, or the terrorists have already one. Also, a little peer pressure or a comment from one of the flight attendants will certainly help. Flight attendants already ask obnoxious passengers to pipe down, so I don't see the difference.

Posted by Andrew Hitchcock | March 25, 2007 11:44 AM

Cell phones work underground at all the downtown BART stops and on the trains between those stations, but those stations are already noisy (as are the trains) and pretty spacious, and it all works pretty well.

A plane, on the other hand, would be sucky place for people to make calls from.

I don't get why people should into their phones anymore. People, why do you talk so loud into your phones? People can hear you if you talk normal, it's not a walkie talkie.

Posted by Dougsf | March 25, 2007 4:54 PM

I think one of the problems of cellphones is that they give this false feeling of privacy, because only the user can hear the words of the person talking to them. Many cellphone users seem to forget, however, everyone around them can still hear THEIR words. Hence, the ridiculous shouting. It's a bit like drivers who think no one can see them with a finger jammed up their nose, just because they're sitting inside a car.

(Are we taking a survey? I'm 21 and I'm with Dan.)

Posted by Gloria | March 26, 2007 5:57 AM

Personally, I can tune out a conversation between two people (or eavesdrop, if I want) but I find it hard to do with a phone conversation, because I just hear the one half of the conversation. I find myself wondering what the person on the other line said to get the peron on my end to say what they are saying.

I just don't see what the big sacrifice is in being expected to sit quitely and amuse yourself for a few hours without yakking on the phone. Call me a luddite, call me a bore, call me a friendless jerk, but I just don't get it. And I don't know why I should be expected to invest in headphones or learn to tolerate the kind of behavior that we discourage in toddlers. And I really don't see why flight attendants (or Amtrak employees, for that matter) should be asked to be even more of a babysitter than they already are (remind me to tell you the story about the Japanese tourist who couldn't keep his clothes on).

Back east, Amtrak has addressed the issue by having designated "quiet cars" for the people that don't want to listen to all the phone calls, music, shouted conversatons, etc. That doesn't work here, due to station platform length and some technological issues (I'm restraining my innner wonk, and it's quite difficult) and that really wouldn't work in today's cattle car airplanes.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | March 26, 2007 7:40 AM

The FAA wouldn't have allowed it anyway. Phones screw with the avionics. Actually I just found out that some phones can screw with auto-pilot, like the the brand new Siemens cell phone. It caused a 767 to disengage autopilot and turn left uncommanded. This isn't a big deal at 30,000 feet, but many airports have automated take- offs (a few have automated landings). Not good for an airplane to make a left turn 100 ft off the ground.

Posted by Shea | March 26, 2007 10:39 AM

I think it's funny that this article started with the FCC keeping the cell phone ban in place, yet everyone's talking about manners. The FCC isn't supposed to be the politeness police (though their crack anti-nipple squad is trying). If it's technically feasible for people to use cell phones in flight, than the FCC shouldn't prevent it just because it's annoying.

Personally, I have no desire to talk on my cell phone in flight, though I wouldn't mind reading email, or perhaps the Slog.

Posted by Andy | March 26, 2007 10:47 AM

Airfone died because it was a perpetual money-loser. The people who set up the in-plane infrastructure for cell phones to function semi-reliably will presumably use a similar air-to-ground network, if not the same one repurposed. So, how is this gonna be significantly cheaper?

If they -do- put in 1.5-megabit symmetric internet connectivity, then look for shitty Skype, and genuine VoIP for that matter, to be largely blocked. You will have proxied/cached web, IM and email. Don't expect moronic YouTube videos, either. (excuse the redundancy)

But the no-longer-warm corpses of Airfone and Boeing's Connexion service are not good business harbingers.

And oh, yeah, who the fuck wants to hear wankers prattling-on about whatever they think makes them important....

Posted by Internet Injuneer | March 26, 2007 1:05 PM

The other day I was on my way to pick up some lunch when I passed a guy facing a brick wall and talking to himself. I didn't think much of it, since you see that kind of thing all the time in San Francisco.

As I walked back a few minutes later, I saw the same guy still facing the wall and talking to himself. Only this time, as I approached him from the other direction, I noticed the wireless cell phone device clipped to his ear.

Modern wireless technology: turning business men into schizophrenics, one at a time.

Posted by Dave V | March 26, 2007 3:00 PM

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