Pros and Cons of In-Flight Cell Phone Use - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/16/04

Pros and Cons of In-Flight Cell Phone Use

We're used to them in airports, but on planes? We're used to them in airports, but on planes?

In the high-tech, state-of-the-art world of modems and mobiles, just about everyone is connected to cyberspace. And someday soon you may be able to use it on an airplane. The FCC has just voted to allow in-flight, high-speed internet access.

"You can imagine doing emails, surfing the net, that sort of stuff," said FCC chairman Michael Powell. "We began the process of opening up a service that might make that possible."

It won't happen immediately. It will take a year or so to sort out the details and get the technology in place.

Also someday soon, you may be able to use your cell phone during a flight. The FCC voted to open a public comment period on the issue. A lot of travelers have mixed feelings. On the upside, a ton of conveniences. On the downside, it could be annoying.

Picture this: you're on a plane and it's coming in late. Calling ahead on your cell phone would come in handy. Beyond that, there's the safety issue: some travelers say that if everyone was getting service on September 11, things may have turned out differently.

"People could have called earlier to alert people what was happening," said traveler Craig Johnson.

Some, however, aren't too excited about the idea of the person next to them rambling on and on and on for cross-country flight. "I've been in the waiting room for the doctor at times when people were carrying on very personal business, and it's just irritating after a while," said Carey Stark of Savannah.

"Cell phone manners are a seemingly lost art," added Charlie Clark.

Many travelers say no matter what you think about the ability to use a cell phone in the middle of a flight, it's just a natural progression of technology.

"I think it's the next step," Clark told us. "We're all now even, when the plane stops, we're checking messages and checking cell phones. We seem to be a connected world and it's just one more step to stay connected."

"Technology is changing every year, so I believe it'll come up sooner than later," said Johnson.

Obviously one of the main issues is going to be signal strength. Right now phones don't have antennas powerful enough to use even if we were allowed to try.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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