Look, it's not that I am enthusiastic about cell phone usage on planes -- I actually look forward to long-haul travel because of the down time it affords me -- but let's face it, it's coming. It's inevitable. So why is the US government (or, more specifically, the FCC) stalling?
Before I launch into this next rant, full disclosure is necessary: I went to college with the current FCC chairman, Kevin Martin, at UNC-Chapel Hill. Not only did I go to college with him -- I am still miffed at him, as he conducted a campaign for student body president against my dear friend, Bill Yelverton, that (IMHO) was a stunning template for future presidential campaigns -- that is to say, ugly. Guess I blew my chance to learn from that & become a professional chief of staff. Oh well.
Okay, back to the topic at hand: so why this lameness? The FCC claims that these gadgets create electronic interference -- but can't we test this, and more importantly, shouldn't we be testing this? I mean, if they can, shouldn't planes be overhauled or upgraded or whatever, to protect the passengers? How many of us have forgotten to turn off our cell phones during a flight? And how long until somebody with a grudge and a death wish decides to tinker around to see if they can bring a plane down this way?
Interestingly, the ban is cheaper and easier for airlines, carriers and the government than getting organized and making an effort to show some political backbone and actual chutzpah to legalize using cell phones on planes.
Mike Elgan of ComputerWorld does a far better job of drawing out the arguments than I do here -- see his article "Why Cell Phones Are Still Grounded" for more.
Oh, and yes, he doesn't still have an axe to grind with Kevin.