Alexander: Federal Government is One Step Closer to Banning Cell Phone Calls on Flights

Posted on August 1, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 1, 2018 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said the federal government was one step closer to banning cell phone calls on commercial airplane flights, after the U.S. Senate passed legislation directing the U.S. Department of Transportation to finish regulations to ban cell phone calls on commercial airplanes.

“Keeping phone conversations off commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but surely it is enshrined in common sense,” Alexander said. “The bill passed by the Senate today directs the Secretary of Transportation to finish a rule to prohibit cell phone calls during flights on commercial airplanes. Anyone who has sat next to a loud businessman talking to his girlfriend on a six-hour flight between New York and California will understand why this bill is critical.” 

The provision was included in the Fiscal Year 2019 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

Alexander continued, “The legislation is also good news for Tennessee projects. It provides critical funding to help build roads and bridges, support housing needs and enhance aviation safety at Jackson, Millington and Smyrna.”

The Fiscal Year 2019 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which includes:

  • Language directing the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a rule prohibiting the use of cell phones for voice calls on flights. The language included in the appropriations bill is similar to bipartisan legislation Alexander introduced with Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in June of 2017. In December, 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began considering a rule change that could allow for the use of cell phones for phone conversations on flights.  In April 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai terminated this rulemaking however future chairmen could reopen similar changes.
  • $46 billion for the Federal-aid Highway Program to support road and bridge construction nationwide.
  • $1 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants, which were formally known as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery “TIGER” grants. The BUILD program awards competitive grants to communities in Tennessee and across the country to fund significant transportation projects, including highways and bridges, public transportation systems, passenger and freight railroads and port infrastructure.
  • $3.3 billion in funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which provides funding to low and moderate-income communities to support economic development, housing and infrastructure needs in Tennessee and across the country.
  • $168 million for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Contract Tower Program, which will enhance aviation safety at Jackson, Millington and Smyrna.

Today the Senate passed four spending bills, including the Fiscal Year 2019 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.  The bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee,  of which Alexander is the 3rd ranking Republican member, on June 7, 2018, and is consistent with the spending limits included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 approved by Congress, and signed by President Trump, in February.

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