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FCC chairman: Calls on planes up to each airline

Thursday - 12/12/2013, 3:01pm  ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- You might still have to wait for the plane to land before you call home.

Even though the Federal Communications Commission is looking at lifting restrictions on using cellphones in the air, that may not be the final word on the subject. The head of the FCC, Thomas Wheeler, says Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has told him that the agency will be moving forward with its own restrictions.

Calls aboard planes have been prohibited for 22 years over fears that they would interfere with cellular networks on the ground. Technological advances have resolved those concerns.

Wheeler told members of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee today that "when the rationale for a rule doesn't exist, the rule shouldn't exist."

Even though his agency sees no technical reason to ban the use of phones on planes, Wheeler says he's telling the CEOs of major airlines that the government isn't requiring them to allow calls. Ultimately, he says the decision will rest with individual airlines.

An Associated Press-GfK poll released yesterday found that 48 percent of Americans who were surveyed oppose allowing cellphones to be used aboard planes, while just 19 percent support it.

%@AP Links

197-a-11-(Thomas Wheeler, chairman, Federal Communications Commission, at hearing)-"an interference rule"-FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler says the ban on mobile devices on planes that can interfere with terrestrial networks may be outdated. (12 Dec 2013)

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198-a-06-(Thomas Wheeler, chairman, Federal Communications Commission, at hearing)-"rule shouldn't exist"-FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler says if it is technically possible, bans on the use of cellphones on passenger planes should be lifted. (12 Dec 2013)

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199-a-14-(Thomas Wheeler, chairman, Federal Communications Commission, at hearing)-"new technology works"-FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler says even though the Transportation Department wants to continue restrictions on cellphone use on planes, his agency will move ahead with its own recommendations. (12 Dec 2013)

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APPHOTO DCSW107: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, left, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on cell phones on planes. Wheeler is joined at the witness table with FCC Commissioners from second from left, Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel, Ajit Pai, and Michael O'Rielly. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (12 Dec 2013)

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