Tales from the Water Cooler: I smell a rat in this cellphones on planes announcement

99 times out of 100, we tend to follow whatever the US does

It’s a rainy Friday morning in Manhattan and, before we squelch round the corner to Central Park to kick over the tidy piles of autumn leaves for no reason whatsoever, I should probably fill you in on a story which has a particular resonance to our past 24 hours. You might think, having flown across a cold, black Atlantic yesterday, we would still be a little jaded with air travel, so an aviation-related tale might not seem too attractive. But the sheer rarity of the story makes it unavoidable; 99 times out of 100, we tend to follow whatever the US does, so when a story reflects the opposite, you notice.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced it may allow “cellphone” usage on planes. Fair enough. We already allow that. Mind you, I’m normally clinging on to my wife’s arm like a monkey throughout the whole flight, translucent with terror, so chatting to someone five miles below me, who is in no imminent danger of crashing, is not high on my Do Now list.

But what’s interesting about the story is not the horrific possibility of our plane back to London being full of American Dom Jolys (“I’m on a PLANE!!”). It’s that the FCC move comes just 16 days after its new chairman, Tom Wheeler, took over. His previous job? A lobbyist for the mobile phone industry. I smell a rat. A flying one. See you next week from Miami.

Twitter.com/DonaldAMacInnes

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