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FCC: Cellphone jammers are illegal

Given the recent interest in cellphone jammers — which block cellphone signals — the Federal Communications Commission felt the need to release a document that states, unequivocally, that the devices are illegal.

“In recent days, there have been various press reports about commuters using cell phone jammers to create a ‘quiet zone’ on buses or trains.” said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison said in a statement. “We caution consumers that it is against the law to use a cell or GPS jammer or any other type of device that blocks, jams, or interferes with authorized communications, as well as to import, advertise, sell, or ship such a device. The FCC Enforcement Bureau has a zero tolerance policy in this area and will take aggressive action against violators.”

The agency posted a frequently asked questions document on its Web site that made it clear that importing jammers is illegal, and that using such a device is a criminal offence.

Marketing, selling or operating any device that jams cellphone, GPS or other signals can be punishable by a fine of up to $16,000 for each violation, government seizure of the equipment and possible imprisonment.

According to the FCC, the jammers “pose an unacceptable risk to public safety by potentially preventing the transmission of emergency communications.”

A man in Philadelphia gained national attention last week after admitting that he’s been using a cellphone jamming device to block the conversations of his fellow bus riders. The rider, identified as Eric, has said that he’s “taking the law into my own hands, and quite frankly, I’m proud of it.”

Since then, the term “cellphone jammer” has been a fixture on Google’s list of trending topics, as people fed up with noisy bus rides of their own look for more information on the devices.

Related stories:

Cell phone jamming raises controversy

Cellphone jammer and a Japanese silencing device: Comment of the week

FCC reviews government shutdown of wireless networks

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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