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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Comments on “FCC Planning To Crack Down On Cellular & GPS Jamming Devices”

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georgied says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Haywood (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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!!!

DG Lewis (profile) says:

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.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

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.

DaveL (profile) says:

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.

ComputerAddict (profile) says:

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.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

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.

EngineerZ says:

“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.


Michial Thompson (user link) says:

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.

Overcast (profile) says:

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.

AJ says:


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….

Ron (profile) says:

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.

btr1701 (profile) says:


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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

btr1701 (profile) says:

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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