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FCC Looks To Expand In-Flight Wireless Service

This is a truly bad idea. I speak from experience on this topic, and I hope with all my heart that the FCC’s proposal is shot down, no pun intended.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler explained his decision yesterday by saying expanding mobile service on flights can be done safely, meaning the devices will not interfere with the plane’s instruments. However, there is another danger lurking that he does not address.

I may be wrong, but I would bet that Wheeler has never been a regular rider on a commuter railroad.

The minute bored passengers on a six-hour flight from New York to Los Angeles start dialing friends, the tension and anger level on the flight will increase exponentially. One could hope that people would be polite and not hold three-hour-long, very loud and inane conversations, but that is not going to happen.

Here is my proof:

I am a commuter on the Long Island Rail Road. I ride the train for about 90 minutes each way every day back and forth from my home on Long Island to Manhattan. It is a rare day when I am blessed with a quiet trip in or out; most days there is somebody loudly talking on his phone — despite pleas from the conductor asking people to either not call, or to talk quietly.

Sometimes a call lasts a few minutes, sometimes 30 minutes. No matter the length, listening to someone loudly discuss his day at work, plans for the night or why the Jets suck is akin to hearing fingernails on the blackboard. It is supremely annoying.

Most of the time, the non-chatting passengers bite their tongues and say nothing, as they do not want to start a confrontation. However, there are times when something has to be said. I will admit to being one of the first people to get up and politely ask the person to please either stop talking or speak as quietly as possible.

Sometimes the loud talker is embarrassed, not realizing I was able to hear the details involving her rather intimate relationship with her boyfriend the night before. Other times I am told to “mind my own business — I can do what I want,” but in a short two-word sentence that I cannot write here.

While I usually don’t push the point further, I have seen screaming and shoving matches develop when the latter answer is given, and the complainant is not as peaceful as myself. I have also heard and read about full-blown fistfights erupting.

An airplane is really nothing more than a train that happens to go up into the sky. People are confined in a small seat. They are tired, and they are not always in the best mood. This is the worst possible environment for a fight or argument to take place. Unlike a train, the plane can’t land at the next stop and toss out the offending passengers. Flight crews and passengers will become involved, leading to possibly a very dangerous situation developing at 35,000 feet.