The Edmond Sun

Features

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
Features
  • clinic 1.jpg Edmond church to host free eye clinic

    An Edmond church and Feed the Children are partnering to provide a free eye clinic.
    Individuals will be able to receive a free vision test and free prescription eye glasses from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Waterloo Road Baptist Church, 3100 E. Waterloo Road. All ages are welcome and registration is not required.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • UCO forensic volunteer wants to aid more agencies

    A four-person group of forensic investigators who volunteer their time to help smaller Oklahoma police departments isn’t enough to meet demand, a member said.
    Kama King, who recently completed her graduate research and will be a member of the faculty at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Forensic Science Institute, said outside of full-time jobs, members of the group volunteer to assist these agencies.
    As her career progresses, King hopes to help establish a permanently funded organization available to any agency in the state to assist in remains recovery as well as related training.

    July 29, 2014

  • jc_ITS map.jpg More cameras monitoring Edmond motorists

    The Edmond City Council this week approved a services agreement with Electronic Technology, Inc. For the  installation of Intelligent Transportation Systems’ video wall system at a cost of $314,620. The vote was 3-0.
    ITS is a fiber optic, wireless or hybrid communication system of monitoring road events and equipment in the field, data archiving and predicting traffic volume, said Kent Kacir, an engineer with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • jc_Earp Marlin 2 - photo credit Noel Winters.jpg Shootout of a sale

    An original article of the Wild West will be made available at auction Thursday. The rifle of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp will be part of the J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s Summer Quarterly Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.
    Earp was an Arizona deputy sheriff and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Ariz. He is legendary for playing a key role in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He died in 1929 at age 80.
    Wyatt Earp collector Barry Tapp of Edmond will be selling his 1895 Wyatt Earp Marlin rifle at the auction. The rifle has an estimated value between $50,000 and $75,000. It includes authentication documentation from Tombstone Heritage Museum, according to the auction house

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • 11.6.12 Mother and Cub (2).jpg UCO forensic researcher answers key question

    After working a few human recovery cases on a volunteer basis with a variety of police departments, a question kept bugging Kama King.
    “You spend the whole day,” the UCO W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute student said, “sometimes days, searching for someone and only find a skull or a few bones and it just ate at me. Are we not finding this or is it not there to be found?”

    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

  • How to care for your pet without breaking the bank

    It’s a shame furry friends can’t pay for themselves. Though wagging tails after a long day at work may make pet ownership seem worthwhile, a happy pup won’t stop those bills from rolling in at the end of the month. Thankfully, quick and easy ways exist for dog owners to cut down on costs.

    July 28, 2014

  • MS_new pastor_Page_1.tiff Local church welcomes new pastor

    For one of Edmond’s newest pastors, faith and family intersect on a personal level.
    Sam Powers, pastor at Edmond 1st United Methodist Church, 305 E. Hurd St., and his family arrived in mid-May and his first Sunday in the pulpit was the second one in June. He and his wife Sheryl Heaton Powers, have two children — Kyla will be an eighth-grader at Cheyenne Middle School and David will be a fifth-grader at John Ross Elementary.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • pm_Ramona Paul.jpg Keith, 5 others to receive service awards

    The 2014 Door-Opener Awards Gala dinner and silent auction Sept. 4, benefitting ASTEC Charter Schools, will recognize five outstanding Oklahomans and one Kansan for lifetime contributions made toward helping others in society maximize potential and achieve dreams.
    Those selected to receive a Door-Opener Award at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel event include Dr. Harvey Dean, Pittsburg, Kan.; Toby Keith and Tricia Covel, Norman; Former Gov. George P. Nigh, Edmond; the late Dr. Ramona Paul, Edmond; and Natalie Shirley, Oklahoma City.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • MS_Andy Billups.jpg Local man relies on experience in July 4 emergency

    Andy Billups just happened to have gained experience as a combat zone firefighter/medic while he was serving as a civilian contractor in Iraq.
    The Edmond businessman just happened to have a friend with a place on Grand Lake where he has been viewing Independence Day fireworks for a number of years, and he just happened to be there July 4.
    And he just happened to be relaxing on a hammock when he heard a some kids making a commotion.
    Located two blocks east of Disney on State Highway 28 in the foothills of the Ozark Mountain Range in northeast Oklahoma, the 59,000-plus surface acre Grand Lake is known for its state parks, marinas, restaurants, motels and fishing.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo