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US regulators to propose use of cell phones in flight

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  • Writer: AFP
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US telecommunications regulators will consider next month allowing people to use cell phones and other broadband services during flights, officials said Thursday. 

A US Airways Embraer E-175 airplane takes off from a runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, September 23, 2013.

The proposal would allow people to make phone calls and surf the Internet on their phones, tablets and computers when aircraft are above 10,000 feet (3,048 meters).

But bans would still be in place during takeoff and landing.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency had just circulated a proposal on allowing airlines to offer broadband services to passengers while in flight.

"Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules," he said in a statement.

The FCC's five commissioners will review the idea in a December 12 meeting, and if approved, it will be formally proposed for public review and comment.

That process could take as long as one year. At the end of it, the FCC would make a formal decision.

At the same time, the Federal Aviation Administration, which governs flight safety, would have to sign off on the equipment used and services offered.

The choice would still be up to individual airlines to offer broadband connectivity, an FCC official told AFP.

"I look forward to working closely with my colleagues, the FAA, and the airline industry on this review of new mobile opportunities for consumers," Wheeler said.

The move comes just weeks after the FAA broadened permissions for the use of electronics in flight, including during takeoff and landing, as long as they remained disconnected from Internet and broadband services.

Passengers currently wanting to connect to the Internet during transit still have to use an airline's in-flight wifi service.

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