Consumer Advocates Warn Against Cell Phone Jamming

A proposal aimed at allowing prisons to jam wireless calls could end up opening the door to some very consumer-unfriendly activity, advocacy group Public Knowledge is warning.

"Allowing the legal manufacture, importation and sale of jamming equipment will create a loophole that history shows the FCC will find impossible to close," Public Knowledge argues in a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee.

The bill would allow officials to petition the Federal Communications Commission to approve the installation of jamming technology in prisons. Doing so would end a 75-year ban on interfering with authorized radio communications in the U.S. -- which would "place commercial and public safety communications in this country at needless risk," Public Knowledge says.

Like many other questionable measures, the law is being proposed in the name of safety. And, while it's hard to disagree that cell phones in prisons pose at least some risk, jamming technology shouldn't necessarily be the solution.



"Only a uniform ban with no exceptions will prevent the widespread use of jammers over time," Public Knowledge argues.

The group might be overstating the case somewhat, but it's probably true that a legal market for companies that offer jamming technology will fuel growth. And it seems likely that prisons aren't the only places that would want to deploy such technology. Public Knowledge points specifically to hotels, which can't charge exorbitant rates to guests who use their own cell phones.

3 comments about "Consumer Advocates Warn Against Cell Phone Jamming ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, July 14, 2009 at 4:29 p.m.

    We don't want felons conducting their crime operations via remote control. Here's a modest proposal: Retrofit all cells/common spaces by wrapping them in copper, creating a Faraday shield that would eliminate radio frequencies inside the prison without jamming.

    Or relocate prisons to subterrainian caves where cell phones don't work. Not as practical.

    How do prisoners get cell phones past the metal detectors? Oh yeah, the same way they obtain drugs: bribing guards.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 14, 2009 at 8:47 p.m.

    Perhaps Public Knowledge needs more knowledge about what happens in prisons. Maybe they should spend some time in there before judgements. In other words, the ideaology is on the right track, but prisons are on the wrong track.

  3. Lynette Perkins from Los Angeles Newspaper Group, July 15, 2009 at 6:34 p.m.

    From the reports of folks in the know (those bribing prison guards to smuggle cell phones into said prisons) the going rate is anywhere between three hundred dollars and a thousand to get that cell phone to their loved one. I'm thinking that's a pretty hefty transportation fee, and the thing is, demand in prison for any type of outside product is going to go up once one kid on the block (pun intended) has that product. I like the copper wrapping idea, but the idea of monitoring the folks who are consistently on the take is a better one. The problem is-how far up the food chain do these issues go inside? For the majority of guards to be able to smuggle drugs, gold, cigarettes, tennis shoes, alcohol, cell phones......who do you think is getting a cut or turning a blind eye? Wait, who IS asking that cell phones be jammed in the prisons? Can't be someone who actually works there....

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