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Fliers give a loud ‘no’ to cell phones on planes

Associated Press

Dear Federal Communications Commission,

Flying is bad enough these days without spending the trip next to someone talking on a cell phone.

That seems to be a common opinion among the 7,696 people and businesses who responded to the FCC’s proposal to allow cell phone conversations on commercial flights.

Comments included arguments from the National Academy of Sciences about interference with astronomy equipment, lots of diatribes about the extreme rudeness of cell phone yappers and a 174-page doctoral thesis from Graham W. Strauss of Carnegie Mellon University.

Strauss explored whether passengers knew that cell phones are currently banned for safety reasons and tried to show that passengers already use wireless devices on planes despite prohibitions against it.

“Limiting passenger electronics use onboard should continue and is the only method available to ensure the near-term safety of the flying public,” he wrote.

The Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security chimed in as well, telling the FCC it should “carefully examine public safety and national security-related concerns before modifying, relaxing or lifting its current ban.” Any rule change would also have to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and individual airlines.

For Annette Pollard of Port St. Lucie, Fla., no further study is necessary. “People on flights can be annoying enough without having to listen to their cell phone conversations,” she wrote.

Many companies called for allowing cell phone use on planes. But at least one profession seems decidedly against it. The majority of the FCC’s respondents who listed their professions were flight attendants.

“It would make an already tense cabin environment even more stressful,” wrote Jeff Gross, an American Airlines attendant.

Perhaps one citizen’s proposal could serve as middle ground: A pay-to-use, glassed-in, soundproof phone booth at the back of the plane.

Banks try tokens to protect online users

Several small banks are launching heightened security programs this month to try to thwart identity theft and make customers feel more comfortable with online transactions.

West Chester, Pa.-based Stonebridge Bank and Corpus Christi, Texas-based American Bank are among the financial companies rolling out an optional program that relies on RSA Security Inc.’s “strong authentication” tokens, battery-powered devices that display a different 6-digit password every 60 seconds. To conduct online transactions, the customer must enter the random number on the display, as well as a user name and password.

The program is similar to an optional log-in service America Online and other financial services companies have introduced in recent months.

So-called multi-factor authentication — requiring the user name and password, as well as a 6-digit code, thumb print, retina scan or other data — is common in Scandinavia, Brazil and Singapore.

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