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http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/192875-overnight-tech-fcc-wont-back-down

http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/192875-overnight-tech-fcc-wont-back-down

THE LEDE: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) isn’t bowing to public pressure to abandon its plan to allow cellphone use on planes.

Despite a major public backlash, the commission plans to vote on Thursday on whether to move ahead with the proposal and begin accepting public comment.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has introduced a bill to block the FCC’s move, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has also said he would consider legislation.

Although lawmakers applauded the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision earlier this year to allow electronic device use during take-offs and landings, many airline passengers fear being stuck in a small space near a person carrying on an obnoxious phone conversation.

But the FCC has emphasized that its role is only to determine whether allowing in-flight phone use would interfere with networks on the ground. Whether or not to ban phone calls would be up to individual airlines.

Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology are expected to grill the FCC commissioners about the plan at an oversight hearing Thursday, just a few hours before the scheduled commission vote.

In a copy of his prepared testimony, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says he has placed calls to the CEOs of major airlines to tell them that it will be their decision about whether to allow texts, Web browsing or phone calls on their flights.

“I do not want the person in the seat next to me yapping at 35,000 feet any more than anyone else. But we are not the Federal Courtesy Commission,” Wheeler will say.

“Our mandate from Congress is to oversee how networks function. Technology has produced a new network reality recognized by governments and airlines around the world. Our responsibility is to recognize that new reality’s impact on our old rules.”

It will be Wheeler’s first congressional hearing since becoming chairman last month. Other hot-button issues could include the upcoming auction of spectrum licenses — now scheduled for mid-2015 — the agency’s Lifeline phone subsidy, cellphone unlocking and net neutrality regulations.

 

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