Cell phone silence on planes? Must be a conspiracy

Tech Culture

Dashing the hopes of BlackBerry addicts everywhere, the Federal Communications Commission recently decided against a new inquiry into whether to allow cell phone use on airplanes. While the news was welcome to those seeking a little peace and quiet on board, it renewed interest in the question of why exactly can't you use your cell phone on a plane.

Cell phone silence on planes? Must be a conspiracy

Most people assume the ban has something to do with aviation safety--the cellular signals must interfere with radio signals, or avionics gear, or something like that.

But a new theory has been making the rounds recently: it's all a plot between the government and the airlines to keep you under control.

Airlines, the theory goes, want to enforce a ban as a form of "crowd control." Without cell phones, consumers have no way to know about what's going on on the ground during flights, and can't get updates about "personal problems, terrorist attacks, plane crashes and other information that might upset passengers," according to a ComputerWorld piece.

The article pointed out some economic reasons for the ban as well, but it was the social control issue that really caught bloggers' eyes.

Blog community response:

"Of course, there's also the possibility that cellphones on planes are just a really bad idea, but unfortunately we're not the ones that make these decisions."
--Engadget Mobile

"It's a little sad that the public have to be lied to. Most people are happy to have a few hours of peace away from the phone, so why not come clean? After all, if there really were technological issues of interference, shielding the cockpit and sensors would be easy enough. But then again, if we believe that liquids and iPods are dangerous, we'll believe anything."

"Note that evidence that 'portable electronic devices' such as cellphones interfere with airplane navigation and/or communication systems is weak at best, and that if it were a real problem it would also be a major security hole--why hijack a plane when all you need to do is recruit people to turn on their cellphones at a key moment? I don't know about you, but if my choices are listening to my seatmates yak about their personal lives or having my cellphone and BlackBerry confiscated by the TSA, I'll put up with the yakking, thanks very much."
--Off the Kuff

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