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Dear Mr. Wheeler: Americans pour their hearts out over in-flight cellphones

Stephen Lawson | Jan. 16, 2014
Like a nearby cellphone user with an annoying way of saying, "Helllloooo!" recently confirmed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has already hit a nerve.

Then there are the hypotheticals.

"What's going to happen when mobile communications above ten thousand feet is allowed, and John Smith receives a phone call mid-flight from his wife of 23 years, Jane Smith, announcing that she wants a divorce?" asked Stephanie D. Zonis of Branchburg, N.J. "What's going to occur when busy advertising executive Ellen Jones receives a phone call mid-flight from her incompetent assistant, who has managed to screw up the big account she should have landed for her agency?" Zonis fears "air meltdown." "It may be rage, it may be hysteria, it might be a panic attack, or the other passengers could hit the trifecta from hell and have all three occur simultaneously."

For some, it's only a question of when the nightmare will hit.

"I do not want to get on a plane from Los Angeles to New York and listen to some 15-year-old whose parents have no better sense and allow their child to yap their face off for 5 hours in my ear ... which we all know is going to happen," wrote Christina L. Monde of Canyon Country, California.

Paul V. Sheridan of Dearborn, Michigan, accused Wheeler of "intrinsic inveracity" and "outright pusillanimity." Thomas J. Burch, of Albany, New York, concluded his comment with the word "NO" followed by the letter "O" 212 times.

There was even a refreshing dose of self-awareness, of the sort that would be welcome in many public situations.

"Short of having flight attendants who are already busy and overworked, how would one deal with folks — like myself — who have voices which are loud and project?" wrote Peter J. McKimmin, of San Diego. "I wouldn't want to come to me and ask me to lower my voice."

With the official public-comment clock ticking, scribes who haven't yet shared their thoughts have 30 days to do so. This will be followed by a 60-day period for responses. The agency has not forecast when it will come to a final decision.


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