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New Rules May Raise Cost of Buying Gadgets Online 171

Posted by timothy
from the in-their-infinite-wisdom dept.
ericatcw writes "Buying your next laptop or smartphone online could suddenly get a lot more expensive if a little-known US Department of Transportation proposal to tighten rules around the shipment of small, Lithium-Ion battery-powered devices by air goes through, says an industry group opposing the move. The changes, designed primarily to reduce the risk from Lithium-Ion batteries, would also forbid air travelers from carrying spare alkaline or NiMH batteries in their checked-in luggage, according to the head of the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association. The proposal is under review until March 12. It can be viewed and commented upon by members of the public."
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New Rules May Raise Cost of Buying Gadgets Online

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:09AM (#31044384)

    Pardon me, but when the second sentence ends with "argues George Kerchner, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Portable Rechargeable Battery Association," I tend to think that article doesn't have much credibility.

    Would we pay attention if an article said something like:

    Tobacco good for your after all

    Your health may not be in the kind of shape you think it is, according to some little known aspects of human biology. Cancer is actually caused by a lack of cigarettes, argues National Tobacco Federation spokesman John Doe.

    So, some lobbyist for the battery cartel (Big Battery?) says new regulations will make batteries costly. I don't buy it. Sounds that Energizer Bunny's gotten too fat on his wide margins.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:48AM (#31044526)
    "Sec. 173.220 (d) Lithium batteries. Except as provided in Sec. 172.102, Special Provision A101 of this subchapter, vehicles, engines and machinery powered by lithium metal batteries that are transported with these batteries installed are forbidden aboard passenger-carrying aircraft."

    Laptops, cell phones, iPods, etc. are all "machinery powered by lithium metal batteries". And it doesn't say anything about shipping or checked luggage, it says they shall be forbidden aboard passenger-carrying aircraft!!!

    One could argue that they are not "machinery" in the conventional sense, but this is far too vague. In my experience, when the language of a law allows it to be enforced in some way, eventually it will be.
  • by Ironsides (739422) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:53AM (#31045498) Homepage Journal

    And how many cases have we seen of batteries actually starting to burn by themselves?

    *raises hand* Mind you, I work in a building that tests lithium batteries for safety. It was quite a surprise to the others guys in the building when it started to smoke before we had even unwrapped it. Then again, we don't work with consumer batteries.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:12AM (#31045580) Homepage Journal

    Far more efficient than light rail would be a "separate security envelope" for commuter flights.

    Requirements:

    *Plane too small to take down a big building even with full fuel tanks. Think no more than 20-30 passengers. Sorry Southwest.
    *Domestic flights only.
    *No checked baggage, only carry-on, and only 1 or 2 full-sized items or equivalent. BUT items normally checked for size like golf clubs could be carried on. No items like guns and such, sorry, ship those ahead.
    *Pre-screened, green-lighted passengers only, ID verified with fingerprint or other biometric to prevent boarding via identity theft. This will be designed for the regular business traveler, not vacationers. People who are rejected in pre-screening will have administrative appeals and can sue in federal court if necessary. This is to speed up the line by virtually eliminating passengers who need to be pulled off for watchlist reasons.
    *There will be baggage screening and a last-minute, expedited passenger screening to check for recent events (did a passenger suddenly land on a watch list after he got green-carded?).
    *Takeoffs and landings are at commuter-only airports or terminals or in a segregated security zone. While you aren't supposed to connect to a "non-commuter" flight, if you do, you'll have to go through "regular" security, so plan a 2+ hour layover.

    This should cut the "arrive before departure" time down to 30 minutes or less. You'll still have to worry about parking, waiting on the tarmac, and the rental car though. The latter can be addressed by express bus or rail service from the airports to major in-city destinations, such as convention centers, sporting arenas and other venues on event days, major hotels, and major businesses that generate a lot of commuter traffic.

    Civil libertarians will have a fit on the pre-screening and fingerprint requirements, and I'm all for removing them if it won't defeat the purpose of reducing net travel time compared to the status quo. The alternative is keeping the status quo or very expensive new rail (which will likely have its own security- and security-theater delays).

    By the way - I probably would not fly in the face of fingerprint requirements on general principles, but many people would and it would make overall air travel more efficient.

  • Sensible Idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bosef1 (208943) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @03:39PM (#31047362)

    That sounds like it would make a lot of sense. Amtrak already has a route from Fort Worth to San Antonio, the "Texas Eagle", but it's dog slow. According to Amtrak, a one-way trip from FW to SA is $30, but takes 7 hrs, 45 min. According to Kayak, I can get a flight from DFW to SAT for about $155 one way, but it only takes an hour of flight time. According to Google, it would take about 4 hrs to drive one way. It seems like if you could build along the existing rights-of-way for the existing rail, you could put in an pretty awesome high-speed rail system for not-so-much money. One way to work it might be through the "Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority". They are primarily focused on toll roads around Austin, but could provide a venue to study high-speed rail capabilities.

    Air travel in Texas is messed up anyway. I went to visit my sister in Austin, and it was cheaper to fly to Austin, through DFW, than it was to get a direct flight to DFW and drive down.

  • by brunes69 (86786) <<gro.daetsriek> <ta> <todhsals>> on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:48PM (#31050164) Homepage

    I don't know why people worry about this kind of thing being made law. Why am I not worried? Think about it.

    Who are the people who use planes all the time? Business people, government workers.

    And who are the people who need to use their laptops on all those plane trips? Business people, government workers.

    And who are the people in real control of all of the laws in the country? That's right, the wealthy business people, the lawmaking government workers.

    In 2010+, No law or regulation is ever going to happen that makes air travel require you to not have a working computer. It is just not realistic given the players involved.

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