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Rockefeller questions safety of in-flight cell phone calls

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is joining the growing chorus of those opposing the idea of in-flight cell phone calls to and from people on airplanes.

It’s a possibility the Federal Communications Commission is considering for times when planes climb above 10,000 feet.

This week, Rockefeller, who is the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to raise his concerns.

His committee has jurisdiction over both agencies.

“During the DOT’s and FCC’s consideration of this matter, I encourage you to carefully consider the possibility of banning in-flight mobile calls and to fully examine all safety issues that the use of cellular voice services on aircraft may create,” Rockefeller wrote.

“The ability to make a call on one’s cell phone is not worth compromising the safety of a flight.  I encourage you to ensure that safety remains the foremost concern for your agencies throughout the process.”

The proposal the FCC is considering would allow voice calls through a small cellular base station installed on a plane.  That station would collect cell phone activity and transmit it to the ground.  U.S. airlines could also use existing onboard Wi-Fi networks.

No matter what the FCC decides, officials with both Delta and JetBlue have already said they will continue their bans on talking on in-flight calls.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently expanded regulations to allow for the use of personal electronic devices, like computer tablets and e-books, during plane takeoffs and landings.

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