March 2006 Archives

Cell Phones in Flight !?

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I came across an interesting article about cell phones while listening to the ABC Nightline Podcast. According to the podcast, the FCC is considering allowing cell phone usage during (airline) flights. Cell phones are currently prohibited from use during flight due to the radio interference they will cause with the airplane's GPS (Global Positioning System). However, it is said that the FCC is planning to auction frequency bands that do not interfere with the GPS system, thus allowing in-flight cellphone usage to become technically safe.

Seems great, but this is only half the story.
Imagine the passenger sitting next to you in economy class talking on the cellphone for the majority of time thru the duration of your flight. Because of the background noise, that call will likely be a very loud one, with the person yelling into the phone and repeating "Huh ? Can't hear you !" Imagine that happening on a ten hour flight from Honolulu to Tokyo, or a red-eye flight. It's inevitable, you're basically trapped inside the plane and strapped down to your seat with your seatbelt on. Imagine how obnoxious that would be ! Rage amoung the pasengers in a closed atmosphere inside the plane surely doesn't seem safe.

The general thinking in Japan is that speaking on the cellphone in places of public nature is annoying to others and should be avoided. Why ? Because that's "how the system is" in the train, restaurants, in the office, and the majority of public space.( I hear even inside some homes !) Even though frequent annoucements remind us of this "rule", I feel that it's pretty much in everyone's minds. I won't say that everyone goes by the rules, but it's from ill will being aware of it. It is regarded as something needless to be said, i.e. common sense.

Abroad and even in Japan, I encounter a certain number of non-Japanese people speaking on the phone openly in public areas as though they are privlidged to do so. Since they don't look like they have ill will doing it, it sometimes makes me wonder if the level of consiousness among the Japanese towards (cell phone) annoyance in public areas is somewhat different compared to people from other countries. I rarely see Japanese people doing it without ill will.

I doubt that any Japanese public transporation authorities would consider changing the rules to allow speaking on cellphones inside the trains or on the bus. It just doesn't seem to fit in with the Japanese system.
Allowing freedom to the individual is ideal, but the humans tend to use this freedom in a selfish manner. The Japanese system seems to put emphasis on what not to do to cope with the reality. Being used to this may be the reason the fact that FCC would think about allowing cellphone usage inside airplanes in the first place seems awkward to me in the first place.