Though the vote of 3-2 knocks out a technical ban in the FCC, the rule against using cellphones to make calls in-flight is still being left up to the Department of Transportation to make a final ruling on here near the end of 2013. This week's vote was a close one. The FCC's meeting today had FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler taking special care to note that this vote does not instantly grant travelers the right to make a phone call on their next flight - there's still voting to be done before that's all well and good.
The vote today took out the FCC technical ban on phone calls in-flight. Next it's the Department of Transportation overseeing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that'll need to move forward. The ban here is on in-flight cell phone use - different from the ban that was lifted earlier this year on smart devices of all kinds. This isn't about the internet, it's about calling your buddies while you're thousands of feet in the air.
Speaking at a congressional oversight hearing earlier today, Wheeler made clear that "the FAA is the expert agency on determining which devices can be used on airplanes", continuing with a note how the middle "C" in FCC doesn't stand for Courtesy.
"The FCC is the expert agency when it comes to technical communications issues. We are not the Federal Courtesy Commission. Our mandate from Congress is to oversee how networks function." - FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
With the FCC's ban on the use of mobile devices of all kinds having been put in place due to their ability to interfere with networks on the ground below no longer being valid, the rules are set to change. Of course the note about "courtesy" doesn't have as much to do with the technology involved as it does to do with people speaking on their phones at the expense of the peace and quiet of others.
Wheeler continued with a rather pointed comment, "I do not want the person in the seat next to me yapping at 35,000 feet any more than anyone else."
Watch out for the DOT ruling coming sooner than later. We'll likely hear more from this set of developments inside of early 2014.