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FCC reportedly proposing that passengers can use cellular service in mid-flight (update: confirmed)

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While the FAA has cleared the use of electronics on US passenger airplanes at all stages of flight, there's still one major restriction in place: you have to shut off all cellular access. That rule may not exist for much longer if the FCC has its way, according to sources for the Wall Street Journal. The agency will reportedly use its December meeting to propose letting passengers make phone calls and use cellular data whenever they're flying above 10,000 feet. Don't be too eager to start chatting in mid-air, though. The FCC hasn't publicly confirmed the proposal, and any new policy wouldn't be mandatory -- carriers could still ask for radio silence, and special equipment would need to be installed in order for each plane to communicate with towers on the ground. If implemented, though, the relaxed rules could make your phone's airplane mode seem like more of a relic than a necessity.

Update: Chairman Tom Wheeler has issued a statement about the earlier report:

"Today, we circulated a proposal to expand consumer access and choice for in-flight mobile broadband. Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues, the FAA, and the airline industry on this review of new mobile opportunities for consumers.

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