Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Protecting us against second-hand voices

Right now, cell phone use is not allowed while an airplane is in flight. Something about it screwing up navigational tools or somesuch. I don't know exactly, but it's supposed to be a safety hazard to use them in flight, much like using them in school zones or on North Central Expressway. But the airlines are working on a scheme to make cell phone use possible in flight and, of course, make the airlines a little extra dough on the side. Somehow they would use broadband networks that would funnel voice and text messages through an airplane's receiver which would relay it to a satellite and then on to the intended recipient. The airlines would charge a fee to use the receiver while making sure it didn't interfere with any other electronic systems aboard the aircraft. But, before you can even say "Sorry, honey, the plane's being diverted to San Antonio," Oregon U.S. Representative Peter DaFazio, a senior member of the House Transportation Committee, has introduced something he calls "The Hang Up Act of 2008" which would prohibit the use of voice communications onboard an aircraft during flight.

"I think many Americans understand the potential for problems on aircraft if 100 or more people start talking on cell phones," DeFazio said at a news conference to announce the bill. "People are in very, very close quarters and this is a circumstance where you would have a cacophony of people on cell phones that would amount to a great potential for trouble."

His bill would permit text messaging and the use of those oh-so-popular phones many planes place on the backs of seats.

DeFazio, by the way, is the congressman who led the fight to ban smoking on aircraft.

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