Cell Phone Jammer: from Philadelphia bus to national controversy

vigilante act that could face severe punishment

WRITTEN BY: Billy Gardner
cell phone jammer can be easy to conceal
Image Source: G0SUB via flickr
cell phone jammer can be easy to conceal

Controversy has struck the web on the use of illegal cell phone jammers. The news came when a Philadelphia man got tired of people talking on his bus ride, and a reporter happened to be riding that same bus.

The story hit the web, and the devices have been searched for days ever since. The cell phone jammer ranges in price from just $40 all the way up to $1,000.

"The general public doesn't realize what they're jamming if they were to start using these things," said Richard Mislan, assistant professor of computer and information technology at Rutgers University, "What's not obvious is all the wireless connectivity systems that are in the background and maintaining data communications in our daily lives."

The Philadelphia man, only identified as “Eric” reported to NBC, “I guess I’m taking the law into my own hands, and quite frankly, I’m proud of it.”

A typical jammers job is to block wireless communication including Wi-Fi, cell phone reception, GPS and even police radar.

The federal government and other companies involved with the federal government are the only ones permitted to use jammers, usually for the purpose of homeland security. Section 302(b) of the Communication Act of 1934 prohibits the “marketing, sale or use” of jammers. Eric, like many others said he thought the use of cell phone jammers was legal.

Michelle Ellison, Chief of the Federal Communication Commission Enforcement Bureau said, “We are troubled by the reported incident and are looking into it.” The issue here becomes the range, in which the cell phone jammer can have an influence. Yes, Eric and others may successfully jam the call of the loud person holding a menial conversation on their bus ride, but the range of some jammers extends as far as a couple hundred feet and that becomes dangerous because now emergency calls might be affected.

“Our actions should send a strong message to retailers of signal jamming devices that we will not tolerate continued violations of federal law,” Ellison later said in a press release.

Anyone now thinking of purchasing cell phone jammers should beware because under federal law, illegal use can result in a $16,000 fine and even jail time.

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