The Edmond Sun

Business

November 25, 2013

FCC chief shares pain of own proposal to allow calls on planes

WASHINGTON — The U.S. regulator proposing to end a ban on phone calls during commercial flights understands why some passengers say the change would take connectivity too far.

"I feel that way myself," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said, after provoking complaints from flight attendants who want a peaceful cabin, fliers who don't want chattering seatmates, and lawmakers who listen to both groups.

Wheeler's statement was issued 25 hours after the agency announced his Nov. 21 plan to allow in-flight calls, unleashing a flood of protests. In that time, one FCC commissioner received more than 200 e-mails objecting to the move, an online petition at the White House surpassed 1,000 signatures, and members of Congress from both parties discussed blocking Wheeler's proposal with legislation.

"Playing 'Words with Friends' is different than passengers having lengthy, loud 'conversations with friends' while in the tight, inescapable confines of an airline passenger cabin," Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said in an e-mailed statement Nov. 22.

It was a rude reception for one of the first proposals made by Wheeler, a former telecommunications industry lobbyist, since taking office as FCC chairman Nov. 4.

The agency has banned cellular phone use on planes since the 1990s. Wheeler said airlines outside the U.S. use mobile equipment without interfering with networks on the ground.

"Advances in technology likely no longer warrant, on a technological basis, the prohibition of in-flight phone use with the appropriate on-board equipment," he said.

Wheeler said it would be up to airlines to decide whether to let their passengers make calls in mid-air.

"It will be only a technical advisory," he said.

U.S. aviation authorities last month lifted restrictions on using electronic devices including Kindles from Amazon.com Inc. and iPads from Apple Inc. to read, browse the Web and send e- mail over Wi-Fi connections in airplane mode.

Airlines quickly applied to the Federal Aviation Administration to allow their passengers to stay connected throughout flights.

Voice calls were another matter. Delta Air Lines, United Continental Holdings and US Airways Group told Gogo, the largest provider of in-flight Wi-Fi service, to block voice calls over Internet streams to avoid annoying passengers.

Wheeler's proposal faces an initial vote at a Dec. 12 FCC meeting in Washington. It would be then subject to another vote following a public comment period before taking effect.

Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wisc., said he'll probably join Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in introducing a version of a failed 2008 bill they titled the HANGUP Act, for Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace. The measure died amid opposition from the wireless industry, DeFazio said.

"There's no need for voice when you're trapped eight inches from a person," DeFazio said in an interview.

"I'm puzzled," he said. "It looks to me as if perhaps the new chair of the FCC is uninformed, or perhaps wants to deliver something the cellphone carriers have been lobbying for."

Petri said in an interview that, like many lawmakers, he flies often and prefers the quiet.

"It's bad enough when you're taxiing in and out, and you're next to one of those persons," he said.

CTIA-The Wireless Association had no comment on Wheeler's proposal, Jot Carpenter, vice president-government affairs, said in an interview. Members of the Washington-based trade group include the top four U.S. wireless carriers: Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile US.

CTIA opposed the HANGUP Act because blocking voice calls "ought to be a business decision made by an airline and its wireless partners, not by the government," Carpenter said.

The Association of Flight Attendants objects to the FCC's proposed change, Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the union, said in an interview. The group in a news release said it wants a calm cabin environment without conversations that could drown out safety briefings and messages.

"We will be mobilizing around this," said Caldwell, whose union led pressure that forced the Transportation Security Administration to back off its plan to allow small knives on planes.

Carriers including Delta and AMR Corp.'s American Airlines said customers like things as they are.

"Delta has years of customer feedback," Paul Skrbec, a Delta spokesman, said in an e-mail. "The overwhelming sentiment is to continue with a policy that would not allow voice communications while in flight."

American's customers "are supportive of the current FCC policy of no cellphone usage in-flight," Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

At United Continental's United Airlines, "customers have expressed concern about how the use of cellphones inflight will impact their experience onboard," Luke Punzenberger, a spokesman, said in an interview.

JetBlue Airways Corp. collected feedback that "indicates people may not want the current FCC policy to change," Sharon Jones, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. "If the FCC's new policy does go into effect, we would prioritize making the cabin comfortable and welcoming for all - for those who want cell service and for those who like peace and quiet."

The episode caught the attention of Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican and chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees the FCC.

"Like most Americans, when I heard the news that the FCC was considering allowing cellphone calls on commercial flights, I was concerned to say the least," Walden said.

"This will surely be a spirited topic of discussion" the next time FCC commissioners are summoned to appear before the subcommittee, Walden said in a Nov. 22 e-mail.

1
Text Only
Business
  • sales tax holiday.jpg Oklahoma sales tax takes a holiday

    Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 1 and ending at midnight Aug. 3, Oklahomans will be able to participate in a sales tax holiday giving shoppers the opportunity to purchase certain clothing and shoes free of sales tax.
    Yes, retailers may not charge tax, including state and local sales taxes on items that are tax-exempt during the sales tax holiday weekend. The sales of clothing and shoes priced at less than $100 are exempted from sales taxes.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Karan & Rwanda.jpg Peace through Business empowering women entrepreneurs

    Peace Through Business is part of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) based in Oklahoma City. It is a program that connects small business entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda with business owners in Oklahoma. One such entrepreneur found out about the program from a friend, applied, and was accepted to take part in this year’s session.
    Upon earning a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Universite de Sciences et Technique de Lille in Belgium, Lyliose Nduhungirehe began her career working for a construction company in Brussels, but she quickly switched paths to Information Technology.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Anderson Properties continues to grow

    Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties recently announced the acquisition of Tulsa-based Prudential Alliance Realty, an eight-office, 150-agent brokerage operating in Tulsa and Oklahoma City and Edmond.
    The transaction gives Anderson Properties, a full-service real estate agency a total of 38 offices and more than 600 agents.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County pays off jail tax early, seeks new one

    Logan County is paying off a sales tax ahead of schedule and needs a new one to be able to afford funding jail operation and maintenance, officials said.
    Citizens vote on the county sales tax which is split for redistribution by state law. The tax is collected by the Oklahoma Tax Commission and redistributed back to the county as specified by voters.
    In 2005, citizens passed a 10-year sales tax, scheduled to end next month, to fund the building, operation and maintenance of the county jail, which operates on a $1.3 million budget. Jail capacity is 188 without anyone in a holding cell or a temporary bunk. Thursday it was holding 130 inmates, said Logan County Chief Deputy Richard Stephens.

    July 26, 2014

  • Edmond School District’s change orders anticipated

    When building new schools and classrooms there may be additional costs, but when renovating older buildings those costs can more than double, according to a Edmond School District official.
    “When remodeling, you have unknown and hidden costs and you need to include in your budgeted funds for the built-in items you can not see,” said Bret Towne, Edmond’s associate superintendent of general administration.

    July 25, 2014

  • Planning Commission approves rezoning

    The Edmond Planning Commission this week voted 4-0 in favor of rezoning from a single family district.  Peter and Kimberly Roberts made the request to allow a planned unit development on the southeast corner of Jackson and Lincoln Avenue, said Bob Schiermeyer, city planner.
    “They would like to have D-2 family (neighborhood commercial) zoning for duplexes, 14,000 square feet,” Schiermeyer said. “They can put four units on the property.”

    July 25, 2014

  • A Q&A on ‘Obamacare’ Court Rulings

    On Tuesday, two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on the legality of tax subsidies being provided to people who bought “Obamacare” health insurance policies in Oklahoma and 35 other states.
    Here’s a look at the rulings’ potential impact in Oklahoma.

    Q: I’m confused. What did the courts rule today?
    A: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Washington, D.C., decided that the government can’t provide tax subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans purchased in 36 states where the federal government is operating the health insurance exchange. Oklahoma is one of the 36 states. A few hours later, the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Richmond, Va., issued a conflicting ruling that upheld the legality of the health-care law’s tax subsidies.

    July 22, 2014

  • June healthy month for Oklahoma jobs

    Nearly 10,000 new jobs in Oklahoma were created in June, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
    Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday the state experienced one of the largest increases in employment in the nation in June. More than 9,600 additional people joined the state’s workforce in June.
    The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, its lowest ratio in six years. June’s rate was down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May and April, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

    July 22, 2014

  • UCO campus 3.jpg University of Central Oklahoma recognized as having friendly work environment

    The Chronicle of Higher Education named the University of Central Oklahoma as one of the “2014 Great Colleges to Work For.” Central is the only higher education institution in the state recognized on the list and one of only a handful of institutions in the nation given the distinction of being named to the Honor Roll for being cited most often among all the recognition categories.          
    Central joins Duke, Baylor and Notre Dame on the list of the 10 universities named to the large institution honor roll.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Council approves funds toward ADA update

    City Council members have approved a $398,800 professional services contract with Accessology, a McKinney, Texas, firm, to establish an Americans With Disabilities Act transition plan for the city.
    Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to make their programs and services accessible to persons with disabilities. It includes access to government facilities, programs and events and relevant policy changes.
    Accessology was selected out of a pool of five finalists by a five-member committee to create Edmond’s plan. The firm will partner with Kimley-Horn and Associates, a design consulting firm located in North Carolina.
    Edmond’s last ADA transition plan was created in 1992.

    July 21, 2014

Stocks