Travel

A Senator Wants to Save Us From In-Flight Phone Calls


If the flight carrying you home to your family this Thanksgiving actually takes off, just remember to be grateful: It might soon be legal for your seatmates to talk on their phones the whole way—unless, that is, the senior senator from Tennessee has his way.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican, said Tuesday that he will introduce legislation to keep the Federal Communications Commission from allowing cellphone calls during flights. The issue has caused a minor uproar since Tom Wheeler, the FCC’s new commissioner, said he would consider whether to allow phone calls on planes. Wheeler was pretty ambivalent about the idea himself, saying he was personally against it and ready to leave airlines with the final decision. Still, it wasn’t a popular thing to say.
 
If there is a subsection of the population that is particularly prone to be hostile about the impositions of mobile technology, it is probably the kind of grumbly old men that dominate the federal legislature. You could hear their collective voice in Alexander’s description of his motivations to dedicate his energies to this cause:
 

“Stop and think about what we hear now in airport lobbies from those who wander around shouting personal details into a microphone: babbling about last night’s love life, bathroom plans, next week’s schedule, orders to an assistant, arguments with spouses. Imagine this noise while you travel, restrained by your seatbelt, unable to escape.”

Of course, Congress itself has long since abandoned any premise of civility within its halls, so who are they to question the ways in which we annoy one another? Pretty much all legislation has ground to a halt. Considering the serious issues currently gathering dust, any action on this bill could be fairly seen as a grave insult to the entire nation. Then again, it could be one thing that everyone on both side of the aisle actually agrees on.

Brustein is a writer for Businessweek.com in New York.

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