FCC Planning To Crack Down On Cellular & GPS Jamming Devices

from the get-your-last-jam-in dept

Over the years, we've noted that mobile phone jammers were getting more popular in the US, even though they're completely illegal. However, it looks like the FCC has had enough and has announced plans to start cracking down on both mobile phone jammers and GPS jammers. The initial crackdown appears to be targeted at companies selling such jammers, but it hints at going further than that. The concern, of course, is that these jammers don't discriminate and block all sorts of legitimate communication among others. Still, the usual excuse about how it may prevent emergency responders rings a little hollow. It wasn't that long ago that no one had mobile phones and emergency responding still seemed to work. Obviously, having working mobile phones can be quite beneficial, but the FCC shouldn't overplay its hand here. Just stick with the truth: a jammer interferes with a public resource.


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    slander (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 4:46am

    Of course, the crackdown has nothing to do whatsoever with police GPS tracking...

     

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    ComputerAddict (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 5:08am

    "It wasn't that long ago that no one had mobile phones and emergency responding still seemed to work."

    They may not have had a mobile phone but they have had pagers for quite some time, earliest being for doctors as far back as the 1950's.

     

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    georgied, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 5:18am

    There's no need for jammers

    There are only a few situations where having jammers is convenient. Cinemas, certain parts of hospitals, etc... But having a jammer in is counter productive and sometimes defeats what you're trying to achieve i.e. hospitals.

    If a designated no cell area is properly defined why can't the walls be a little thicker or even a faraday cage implemented?

     

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      Gabriel Tane (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:00am

      Re: There's no need for jammers

      Because if I'm in the theater, I have to be reachable by my babysitter in case my child spontaneously combusts! THINK OF THE FLAMING CHILDREN!

      /sarc

      *My apologies if my sarcasm has offended anyone who lost a child to spontaneous combustion.

       

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      Jeff, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:10am

      Re: There's no need for jammers

      The reason they can not block the signals is because if you notice in hospitals the doctors use wireless devices that operate in the same Frequency range as Cell phones.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:15am

      Re: There's no need for jammers

      I agree with what you are saying, but dispute your comment about "certain parts of hospitals". Cell phones may interfere with the use of certain pieces of sensitive equipment, but a jammer would therefore also interfere.

      I do see a fallacy here that health care equipment is not properly shielded against such interference, but then again... a plane apparently isn't shielded either, if you really believe the steward/ess.

       

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        btr1701 (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 9:14am

        Re: Re: There's no need for jammers

        > but then again... a plane apparently isn't
        > shielded either, if you really believe the
        > steward/ess.

        Which is also a huge load of bull. If there was even the slightest chance that an operating cell phone could bring down a jet liner, they'd be just as prohibited as firearms are.

         

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    Nick Coghlan (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 5:24am

    Actually, they may have a valid point. If the US is anything like Australia, the rise of mobile phones means that public phones and private landlines are becoming less common. If you deliberately cut off mobile coverage in areas where mobile service is normally reliable, there may no longer be a convenient landline available as an alternative.

     

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    Haywood (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 5:30am

    Somehow, it causes a secret smile though

    When you see the look on the faces of the zombies as their lifeline goes blank. People will sit in a turn lane all day because they are involved in a call and doing that and judging traffic for an acceptable opening would be too dangerous. They seem to awake from their trance and move along if the cell signal goes away.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 5:40am

    I don't understand the anger

    Mike, why so angry? You seem to be trying hard to find fault with everything that any government agency says.

    The issue of security and especially 911 access is key. As others have mentioned, more and more people are ditching their home phones in favor of cell phones. Making it impossible for them to call, or making their call less informative by disrupting GPS service would certainly put people at risk.

    Further, imagine criminal gangs using portable devices to great a "blackhole" in the cell network, making it impossible for victims to contact police. When it comes down to it, an extra minute is a long time for them to get away.

    I am just really surprised that you cannot see the reasons for restricting these devices. I bet you would have a different opinion if it was a wifi blocker.

     

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      abc gum, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 5:45am

      Re: I don't understand the anger

      Mike did not seem angry, although you do. Not had your coffee yet?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:31am

      Re: I don't understand the anger

      He's so confused he is actually agreeing with Mike whilst believing he isn't! It's the TAM double-standards hypocrisy taken to new fantasy levels!!! Or perhaps he is craftily leveraging the Bugs Bunny method of argument.

      Bugs: "Duck season"
      Daffy: "Rabbit season"
      Bugs: "Duck season"
      Daffy: "Rabbit season"
      Bugs: "Rabbit season"
      Daffy: "Duck season". FIRE!!!

       

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      Some of my best friends are Anonymous Cowards, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:45am

      Re: I don't understand the anger

      "I am just really surprised"

      No, you're not. You're being your usual douchy self. Fuck you.

       

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    DG Lewis (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:00am

    Specious argument

    "It wasn't that long ago that no one had mobile phones and emergency responding still seemed to work."

    As others have pointed out, when no one had mobile phones there were other ways to get in touch with emergency responders - every store, restaurant, gas station, and bar had a pay phone and they were on half the street corners in any decent-sized town, and calls to 911 (or the operator, before 911) were free.

    How many operational payphones have you seen in the past week? You could probably count them on one hand - if you've seen any.

     

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    Gabriel Tane (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:07am

    Private Property

    Here's my view (for anyone who cares... heh.)

    If it's my private property (say a nice family eatery), and I choose to make, as a condition of eating in my establishment, a rule that no one may use cell phones (kinda like the no crying children rule)... why can I not enforce that in the method I choose?

    Yes, I could just kick people out... but that may not be the way I wish to go about it. I know the law says I can't interfere with signals, but as long as I control it such a way that it does not exceed my walls, what's the big deal?

    On another note: What about the FM Modulators? Where did that land? If they're legal, can we not create a in-house system... say, stereo system... that utilizes that particular band so that incoming signals are drowned out while in my establishment? I'm not that technically savvy on cell phone bands, so I don't know.

    One last question... if I'm not allowed to interfere with someone else's signal, then why the hell is their signal allowed to interfere with my speakers? I get that 3G ticking every time someone walks by with a Blackberry. >:( Way to be fair, FCC.

     

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      abc gum, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:18am

      Re: Private Property

      Then again, you could just ask your patrons to go away.

       

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      DaveL (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:56am

      Re: Private Property

      There are some good passive systems to restrict use of wireless devices on your private property. A fine wire mesh installed in the walls (think metal screen door material) and then grounded properly. A Faraday cage if you will.

      The active jammers they are talking about in the article don't necessarily stop at your property line and are something completely different in my opinion.

       

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      ComputerAddict (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 7:39am

      Re: Private Property

      "why can I not enforce that in the method I choose?"

      You probably can, so long as it doesn't affect areas outside your property as DaveL pointed out, and you post a gigantic sign that says "Hazard, Radiation Zone" because if you though the radiation from your cell phone caused problems think about how strong the EM field has to be to overcome that.

      In all Seriousness a prominent sign notifying people that this area has a signal jammer (so first responders knew they were going into a blackhole area) would probably be sufficient, again as long as it doesn't overflow off your property.

       

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      Chris-Mouse (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 8:07am

      Re: Private Property

      If it's my private property (say a nice family eatery), and I choose to make, as a condition of eating in my establishment, a rule that no one may use cell phones (kinda like the no crying children rule)... why can I not enforce that in the method I choose?

      How you enforce your rules on your property is your business, BUT you are still not permitted to operate an unlicensed radio transmitter, and that's exactly what a cellphone or GPS jammer is. Like any radio transmitter, the signal will not magically stop at the boundary of your property, so now you are jamming the neighbour's cellphone too, even if he wants people to be able to use cellphones in his store.
      If you really do want to completely stop cellphone use in your building, there is a very simple way to do it that's perfectly legal. Line the walls of the building with conductive metal foil. Cellphones, and any other radio receivers, inside the foil box will simply not get any signal they can use. This does not transmit anything, so is perfectly legal.

      As for cellphones interfering with your speakers, That's your problem. speakers are not intended to pick up radio signals, and should be designed not to do so. If your speaker manufacturer decided to save a few pennies per speaker by not doing this, that's something you'll have to take up with the manufacturer.

       

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    James, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:20am

    Hmm...

    I'd love to have one of these in the theater for the a-holes who'd rather talk and goof off w/their phone than watch the $10 movie they paid to see.

     

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    Fogbugzd, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:22am

    We may already have a gps jamming system being installed.

    There is some concern that 4g phone systems block gps, at least near towers where 4g signals are strong.

     

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    EngineerZ, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 6:25am

    "It wasn't that long ago that no one had mobile phones and emergency responding still seemed to work."

    The reason cell jammers are a problem for first responders is that many agencies use 800 MHz Land Mobile Radio systems that operate in the band directly adjacent to cellular. Most jammers wipe out this band at the same time they are jamming cell phones. So when someone sets up a cell jammer it also takes out police and fire department two-way radios. When no one had cell phones, no one set up cell phone jammers and two-way radios were unaffected.

    --z

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 7:01am

      Re:

      Not to mention that some departments use 3G networking to drive laptops used in dispatch of emergency services. If one of their units is parked too close to a theater or next to some business that has chosen to block cellular, they could end up missing calls or messages that could cost lives.

       

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    Michial Thompson, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 7:32am

    I doubt they are refering to GPS RECIEVERS

    I doubt that they are refering to the jammers blocking the GPS Receivers. The frequencies aren't close, and not even the 4g transmitters could interfere...

    What they are most likely refering to is the GPS Trackers that are used in the EMS vehicles to report their positions back to the mapping software that the dispatchers use. These tranmitters use normal GSM/3g/4g data channels of PCS phones to transmit.

    As for interfereing with EMS, eve little mikee has posted a number of different articles about how landline phones are decreasing and cellular usage is increasing. So I would think that even little mikee could see how jammers would prevent cellular users from CALLING 911...

    But then little mikee couldn't be over dramatic and super critical of the government finally cracking down using existing laws.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 7:33am

    Perhaps we are becoming a little too dependent on these technologies. I clearly recall on 9/11/2001 - that cell phone networks were jammed up anyway. I'd never really count on a cell phone in a situation similar to that anyway.

    The mere fact that there's this kind of dependence of this stuff is unsettling.

    As for 'terror' or 'organized' threats - in those cases, they would likely custom make jammers with far more power than these, maybe even something on the scale of a full 120 volts with a high-wattage power booster.

     

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    Xris (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 7:33am

    And yet ...

    ... at the same time, the FCC is planing to destroy GPS:
    How The FCC Plans To Destroy GPS A Simple Explanation

     

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    Ryan Diederich, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 8:00am

    No reason

    There really isnt any reason for jammers, in almost ANY situation. Those who cite cinemas are foolish, cell phone use is frowned upon, but you cant jam it. If I were to hold people hostage, i would do it inside a theatre so they couldnt call anyone.

     

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    Mike, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 8:09am

    blocking

    I read through all the comments and no said anything about schools. I know when I walk through the doors in my kids high school cell signal goes from 5 bars to zero. I can only assume they are jamming. AND I agree with them. If parents need to get a hold of kids call the office like we did for 70 years before cells phones.

     

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    AJ, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 8:13am

    Pffft...

    To hell with jammers, i've come up with a better option and it works. .. When i'm in a theater and i hear a cell phone go off, i jump to my feet and say "turn your fucking cell phone off you asshole, we payed good money to watch a movie, not listen to your dumb ass on the phone"..

    You do that one time, and for about 30 seconds afterwards you can watch the flurry of activity as people check their phones making sure there turned off......funny as hell....

     

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    Ron (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 8:40am

    Yes, Jammer Can ...

    ... hinder emergency responders. A while ago I was in a theater where a guy collapsed from a heart attack. Several people ran out to find the theater management. About a dozen more (yes, overkill, but, there was a guy dying in the aisle) called 911. The paramedics showed up within 3 minutes. The theater manager came in AFTER the paramedics to find out what was going on. Yes, we got emergency help before there were cell phones, but many venues like this are now run by quite a reduced staff so that it's more difficult to find help. The cell phone, and 911, removes at least one impediment.

     

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    Jesse, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    If you are in a packed theatre with a jammer and there is an emergency that could be a problem. There are also fewer pay phones today that before. Doesn't mean it's impossible today to get emergency help, but in an emergency seconds can mean life or death.

    No need to overplay it, but the truth is it can be dangerous.

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 9:11am

    Jamming

    This is another example of a ridiculous and over-intrusive interference by the government.

    A private business like a restaurant or a movie theater should be free to jam cell phones on their own property if they choose to do so. So long as the effect is confined to the property and notices are posted informing customers of its use, there's no legitimate reason why it should be illegal.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2011 @ 11:28am

      Re: Jamming

      It is not easy at all to confine a jammer to a given area. The propagation of radio waves (a jammer is nothing more than a transmitter) does not magically stop at property lines, it only falls off under the inverse square law. And there is no safe threshold, you might think the jammer signal might be weak at a given point in the space, but the real signal might be even weaker and be overpowered by the jammer. And even if it does not overpower, it lowers the SNR.

      A passive measure (metal mesh forming a Faraday cage), on the other hand, only casts a shadow on the signal outside, and only if it is in the line of sight between the receiver and transmitter, and even then multipath and diffraction can work around that.

       

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        btr1701 (profile), Feb 10th, 2011 @ 1:27pm

        Re: Re: Jamming

        > The propagation of radio waves does not magically
        > stop at property lines

        I have a feeling that those big multiplex movie theaters that sit in the middle of acres of parking lot can safely contain their signal to their own property.

        As for mesh wire cages in the walls, I can easily envision where even that could eventually be deemed illegal, given the current general attitude among the populace that it's their "right" to make a cell phone call whenever and wherever they please.

         

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    Blackie McNiggerson, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 10:06am

    my principal is a douche and had one up i want to know what i can do to get his stupid ass in prison

     

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    ontheedge, Feb 10th, 2012 @ 1:30pm

    blocking cell phones

    Wow people need to get on the right track. My car a few years ago got rearended by an asshole on a cellphone. I want to block these ppl while I am driving.!!!!!

     

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