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FCC Sued to Allow Cell Phone Jammers 400

stevew writes "A small company in Florida is trying to take on the FCC in an attempt to make their Cell phone jamming product legal. Their main argument seems to be that the Communications act of 1934 conflicts with the HomeLand Security Act — so the Communications act has to go." From the article: "Local and state law enforcement agencies, which would be the first responders to a terrorist attack here at home, are prohibited by law from obtaining such gear. 'It just doesn't make much sense that the FBI can use this equipment, but that the local and state governments, which the Homeland Security Act has acknowledged as being an important part of combating terrorism, cannot,' said Howard Melamed, chief executive of CellAntenna. 'We give local police guns and other equipment to protect the public, but we can't trust them with cellular-jamming equipment? It doesn't make sense.'"
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FCC Sued to Allow Cell Phone Jammers

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  • Can I get one (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arniebuteft ( 1032530 ) <buteft AT gmail DOT com> on Friday December 01, 2006 @06:26PM (#17073794)
    and use it at the movie theater?


    • My thought exactly. I really dont have a problem with cell phone jammers for consumers that only jam a small radius(10-20 feet).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I don't have a problem with antenna gain boosters that up the power output of cellular phones so they can cut through jamming signals!
      • Re:Can I get one (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Friday December 01, 2006 @06:36PM (#17073974) Journal
        Well I have a serious problem with them. If you don't want cell phones in movie theaters then complain to management until they enforce the cell phone ban by asking people who use them during the movie to leave. That's their right as a property owner. You don't have the right to interfere with my communications though. I rely on my cell phone as my only means of communication (no landline). You don't have the right to jam that. Oh and I pity the movie theater that installs a jammer and then has a patron have a heart attack in the middle of the movie and die. "We tried to call 911 but we had no signal". I know a few dozen ambulance chasers that would love such a case.
        • A regulated short-range device that sends a "block non-emergency calls" signal.
          This device would be legal on private property and some government property.

          Then a cell phone call for 911 (and other registered emergency numbers). The cell phone would detect block signal, relay "in a blocked zone" to the Then the call would only be connected if emergency number.

          Or, I guess some "Do-not-cell" database which relied on GPS.

          But "jamming" seems to be the wrong approach.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Shakrai ( 717556 )
            Sorry, I'd have a problem even with that. What if one of my kids has an accident and needs to call me? If I'm in the movie theater I'm going to see them calling and step out. Under your scheme I wouldn't even get the call. The solution is simple -- kick their asses out of your establishment if they abuse it and annoy your other customers. But you don't have the right to punish me.
            • Well, you were supposed to turn off your ringer in a movie theater or concert performance or whatever.

              Otherwise you are that guy who abuses and annoys the other customers.

              vibrate incoming calls could still work in a "blocked zone".
              Or better, you get the "voicemail notification".

              I am not sure where you got the idea of some constitutional right to talk unrestricted on the phone everywhere, even others private property. Allowing block zones is nicer than requiring handing in phones, or having lead or thick wal
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Jesus, for being smart people, most of the replies I've read so far say you have a RIGHT to talk on a cell phone..

              Well, you don't. And the theater owner DOES have the right to say "No cell phones can be used, because I installed a cell blocking device on my private property. If you need to use your phone, go somewhere else."
          • It's effective because it's simple though, no need to have supporting handsets or networks, just power.

            Is it not the property owner's right to prevent you entering (with a mobile) anyway? The least one could do is comply with their request to make it silent.
        • by LordEd ( 840443 )
          How is this any different? The only way your cell phone is getting jammed is by your presence with it in a no-cell phone area. If you are being jammed, it is because you already broke the rule. Isn't having your cell phone turned off already denying you your communication line? You still aren't able to make calls.

          As for the 911 issue, see other posters talking about non-emergency block signals and other related ideas.
        • by Ucklak ( 755284 )
          You go into a doctors office and they ask that you turn off your cell phone.

          You come in my house, I may ask the same. It's my property.

          The 911 cell call crap is exactly that, crap. A cell phone user isn't going to get a call faster than the management of the of the theatre and seconds do not count minutes maybe, seconds, no. Ask any first responder. They're not there in seconds anyway.

          You come to my property, I sure as hell have a right to disrupt your communications. It has always been that way.
          Just b
  • by Hubbell ( 850646 ) <brianhubbellii@l ... m minus math_god> on Friday December 01, 2006 @06:26PM (#17073802)
    What would be the possible point of giving them cellular jamming equipment? It would serve almost no useful purpose at all. Do people seriously believe there will be a time where it will be useful? That terrorists will launch some form of attack that isn't a 1 2 hit, like a ground assault or something? People need to get their heads out of their asses and realize that this kind of thing is ridiculous and retarded.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shakrai ( 717556 )
      Indeed -- and I love using terrorism as an argument to try and sell something. The minute he played that card I stopped paying attention.

      Oh and the likely explaination for law enforcement needing them during a terrorist attack is to prevent the terrorists from using cell phones to trigger bombs. Of course in his haste to sell his product he's overlooking the fact that the Government can simply order the cell phone companies in an area to shut their networks down. They don't need jammers!
      • Or even likelier explanation is to prevent bystanders from sending off snapshots/videos of the next Rodney King. Or that lady they shot up in Atlanta. Or the black bridegroom shot 22 times last weekend.
        • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

          Or even likelier explanation is to prevent bystanders from sending off snapshots/videos of the next Rodney King. Or that lady they shot up in Atlanta. Or the black bridegroom shot 22 times last weekend.

          You mean I have to walk a few blocks before I can upload my video? ;)

          Doesn't seem very effective at stoping that either if that's their goal :P

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You're not looking at it from the right point of view. It's not to stop a terrorist attack from occuring- it's to stop people from talking about the terrorist attack that's just occured. It's one of the best ways to enforce a telecommunications blackout cordon around an area, and that's why DHS wants it.

      Not to prevent a terrorist attack, if ever one happened, but to prevent you from being able to learn anything about it that hasn't been carefully vetted by DHS first.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by finkployd ( 12902 )
        Realistically, there are a couple of problems with this.

        (1) a terrorist attack will jam up cellular lines anyway. Did you try placing a call on 9/11? It was damn near impossible.

        (2) Cell phones are not the only form of communication, we also have regular phones, and the Internet, and (when all else fails) ham radio operators.

        (3) The Media, while arguably under a bit of control by the government (or in the case of Fox News complete), still chomps at the bit whenever they smell coverup or any disaster which h
      • You're not looking at it from the right point of view. It's not to stop a terrorist attack from occuring- it's to stop people from talking about the terrorist attack that's just occured.

        You're not looking at it from the right point of view. It has nothing to do with terrorists, it's to stop people from using their cellular telephones to report police brutality, or some other abrogation of their rights.

    • People need to get their heads out of their asses and realize that this kind of thing is ridiculous and retarded.

      I agree. We should leave that kind of thinking to the people who are best at it, the DHS.
    • by Quadraginta ( 902985 ) on Friday December 01, 2006 @07:03PM (#17074418)
      Well, they gave you a few examples in the article, viz.:

      (1) To let states jam cell-phone communications in state prisons, so that prisoners can't make unmonitored calls to the outside. Here [] is an NPR story on the surprising number of cell phones smuggled into prisons and their sometimes unfortunate uses. From the article:

      In several criminal cases, inmates have used cell phones to run gangs operating outside of prison, to put hits out on people, to organize drug-smuggling operations and, in one case, trade gold bullion on international markets.

      Er...speaking as a citizen juror, I don't much care about cons trading gold bullion from inside the pen, ha ha, but the idea that putting away a drug gang kingpin won't affect his ability to run his gang at all is a bit...disturbing.

      (2) To let police jam cell phones during a raid, so that, for example, any lookouts posted won't be able to communicate back to headquarters and tip off the targest of the raid. This is elementary warfighting: you certainly jam the enemy's communications during an operation if you can, because surprise reduces casualties all around. I hope you agree that significant criminal enterprises qualify as an 'enemy' against whom we'd like the police to take action. (That is, I hope you don't think the police shouldn't be able to conduct effective raids at all. Whether they should conduct them more carefully, or only with greater justification is, of course, an unrelated separate question.)

      The business about blocking bombs is a bit of a bogus red herring, agreed, but if you read the article you'll see it was the journalist that raised this point, and not the people who make the jamming equipment. They only talked about the use of the equipment in police raids and so forth. It was the (typically, sensation-seeking) newsman who decided to write about cell phones and bombs.

      On the other hand, the point of the 1934 Communications Act is not as silly as the jamming equipment maker suggests: clearly the Commerce Act gives Congress the power to regulate radio communication, as very little is more interstate than radio. Furthermore, it makes sense (or at least made sense in 1934) to prohibit every state and dinky locality from making its own separate (and probably conflicting) rules about who can jam radio signals, and when and how. It would lead to a cacaphony, a completely unworkeable patchwork of regulation of the radio spectrum. (For similar reasons, the use of international-range radio is subject to several important international treaties.)

      However, those were the days when "radio" typically only meant HF, long radio waves that could at least go a few hundred miles, if not several thousand. I doubt there was much thought given to the modern situation, where we have millions of low-powered radios (e.g. cell phones) operating at very high frequencies, with ranges of a mile or two at most, and networks of repeaters to help the signal get around. So there are, indeed, good arguments that this is a situation not anticipated by Congress in 1934, and some kind of review of the Communications Act makes sense. Maybe state and local jurisdictions should be allowed to deploy jamming equipment the way they see fit, if it's only going to have any effect within the jurisdiction. It's hard, after all, to see why Pittsburgh's City Council shouldn't be able to make the rules for jamming cell phones within the city limits -- and the Feds should.

      Presumably this cell-jammer maker hopes to prod Congress into revisiting the Communications Act by this suit, which otherwise seems hopeless on the merits. (There's no way the Act can be unconstitutional merely because the Homeland Security Act can be interpreted as contradicting it. Courts are required to read legislation in such a way as to minimize conflicts. Hence if it's at all possible to read the Homeland Security Act in such a way that it doesn't conflict with the Communications Act -- and I'm sure it is -- then that's the way the Courts have to interpret it.)
  • To the best of my knowledge there is no constitutional requirement that Congress behave rationally.

    Therefore it is totally constitutional for one law to explicitly forbid the best method of achieving an objective cited in a later law. They need to talk to Congress, not the courts.

  • Why jam? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Friday December 01, 2006 @06:30PM (#17073858)
    This seems like a brute-force approach, especially because cell signals are approximately line-of-sight, so the jammers would have to be emplaced pretty carefully to kill all coverage in an area.

    They would affect all cell users including emergency responders adversely. Couldn't a capability be built into the network instead to reject all calls except those from phones with certain ID numbers? It should only be used if there's a suspicion that someone's about to trigger a bomb by phone or some similar type of situation, of course.


  • "CellAntenna argues that the Communications Act and the FCC regulations that interpret the law are unconstitutional because they are in conflict with the Homeland Security Act of 2002, adopted by Congress in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."
    I can see it now... "It's outunconstitutionalizes the homeland security act!" ... Isn't it hard enough to keep cellphone operations running? Now they have to deal with this too?
  • by wfberg ( 24378 ) on Friday December 01, 2006 @06:30PM (#17073876)
    He has a valid point - the law is hypocrital.

    The Feds should ALSO be banned from using cell phone jammers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak ( 669689 )

      While CellAntenna has based much of its case around the use of its gear to prevent terrorism, Melamed acknowledged the gear could be very useful to law enforcement officials in other capacities.
      Where the technology would likely get the most use is during narcotics raids, when officers could use equipment to locally disable cell phones and walkie-talkies used by lookouts in neighborhoods where drug busts are common, he added.

      Fuck That.

      AFAIK, just about every "anti-terrorism" law has been used for everythi

  • Please just put them in movie theaters. That's what EVERYBODY wants. Change the law already.

    (I have some sympathy for those of you who must carry pagers to stay in contact with work. You're going to have to sacrifice movies... I'm sorry.)
  • Security Theatre. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adam ( 1231 ) * on Friday December 01, 2006 @06:31PM (#17073888)
    FTFA: "Equipment made by companies such as CellAntenna that can jam or block cellular signals is used by the U.S. military in Iraq to help protect convoys traveling through known trouble spots."

    Great. The US is not Iraq, and frankly, it seems the police can't be trusted with tasers []. I am sure we give the military in Iraq, and federal agents, access to all sorts of other stuff I really don't want my local deputy, Jimmy-joe-bob, getting his paws on.

    Frankly, this is just more FUD bullshit security theater. Cellphone jammers won't help the police one bit, and will only add to the potential for abuse/misuse by the police. This lawsuit is nothing but a ploy from a company that wants to join the halliburton gravy train. GSM can be jammed somewhat as far as I know, but my understanding (correct me if you know and I am wrong) is that CMDA/WCDMA have much more immunity to jamming. CDMA phones aren't very prevalent in Iraq, but they are here. Furthermore, this only works if you know where (within a small radius) an explosive device [that was to be detonated by cellphone] is/willbe.. so really all it encourages is either wasteful spending on useless devices, or spending on devices that will be permanently setup in "high risk" place.. which will only serve to 1: encourage the 'terrorists' to figure a way around cellphone jamming, 2: erode our rights further.
    • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Friday December 01, 2006 @06:49PM (#17074204)
      and frankly, it seems the police can't be trusted with tasers

      How many abuse incidents were there in the more than 70,000 times [] that tasers have been used by police? Instead of making overbroad generalizations, you should realize that tasers (and other weapons like bean bag shotgun rounds, pepper spray, and hopefully the microwave pain ray that the military's been working on) are an effective way of apprehending criminals and protecting the public without causing lasting, disfiguring injury or death in all but the most exceptional of cases. Yes, they can be abused, but so can a firearm or a broomstick.

      Damn cops, can't trust 'em with a broomstick.

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

        Yes, they can be abused, but so can a firearm or a broomstick.

        My problem is tasers is that they lower the officers reluctance to use force. An officer can't shoot you unless you pose a threat to him or others.... but now he can tase you for almost anything.

        I love it when five cops have a guy surrounded and one of them feels that they need to tase him.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Jamming is a bad idea anyway because the government still hasn't gotten its shit together with radios that work well across departments and agencies. If your fireman has to talk to a policeman, they've got to do it with a cell phone in lots of places. Then, some asshole starts jamming that, and everything goes to shit in short order.

    • They're all jammable. CDMA has a "noise floor" above which it's impossible for a cellphone to decode the received signal. DSSS is, essentially, the same concept, and if you've used a digital 2.4GHz DSSS cellphone next to an operating microwave oven (which "transmits" on the same frequency) you'll know what I mean.

      GSM can also use frequency hopping (this is optional, but widely used, it's how GSM deals with static conditions and, to some extent, multipath interference) which means in practice it can be as

  • I paid for my cellphone so I get to use it when I want. Personal cell phone jammers should never be allowed. Only movie theaters and the like should be allowed to use these, nobody else. And even then, I really, really, REALLY don't like the idea. Why can't one person in a theater of 400 get up and go ask a manager to kick somebody out? He won't kick them out? There's 25 other people around whoever is talking that are also very pissed off. I'm sure 25*$8 is a lot of money to a movie theater, they might thin
    • by Shakrai ( 717556 )
      Movie theaters don't even have the right to install them. As you pointed out they already have the ability to deal with the problem - BY KICKING THE ASSHOLE OUT!

      There's no reason to allow cell phone jammers. I paid for my cell phone. Verizon paid for the licenses to those bands. Both of us have a right to expect that we can use them.
      • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
        There's no reason to allow cell phone jammers.

        Hospitals. You'd be surprised at how many patients AND staff violate the no cell phone rules, in sensitive places like intensive care units, cardiology wings and operating theaters. A jammer would probably cause the same interference than a cell phone or worse, however.

        You have the right to use your cell phone, provided that right doesn't infringe on other people's rights. Cell phones do cause interference with sensit
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Reason58 ( 775044 )

      I paid for my cellphone so I get to use it when I want. Personal cell phone jammers should never be allowed.

      I paid for my cell phone jammer so I should get to use it when I want.
    • Ah. Well, I paid for my stereo, so I should be able to crank it up at 3 AM, right? And I paid for a large bright laser, so I should be able to point it at, say, your eyes when you're driving down the freeway at 75 MPH, right?

      It's been said that my freedom to swing my fist ends at your nose. I suggest there are analgous arguments to be made vis-a-vis cell-phone (and cell-phone-jammer) use. No rights are absolute.
  • by finkployd ( 12902 ) on Friday December 01, 2006 @06:44PM (#17074132) Homepage
    I'm sure what is topping the Police Christmas Wish List this year is a cell phone CAMERA jamming device. Cell phones themselves are likely of little concern, but those damn cameras are causing nothing but trouble.

  • ...about how saying that the Homeland Security act is "acknowledged as being an important part of combating terrorism". I think it's an otherwise valid argument (although the bit about the long-established act having to be removed for a brand-new one is slightly disconcerting), but that line put me off.

    Also, (since I'm too lazy to Google it) what else does the Communications Act cover, and how good of an idea is it to "have it go"?
  • from the next-we-can-give-the-police-tanks dept.

    Feel the power that they've got.

    /And after that, let's replace their guns with tactical nuclear weapons!

  • by dapsychous ( 1009353 ) on Friday December 01, 2006 @07:06PM (#17074474) Homepage

    While I agree that people who talk on their cell phone in a movie theater deserver to die in a painful, gruesome, stabbed-to-death-with-your-cell-phone's-antenna kinda way, cell phone jamming would bring too much liability to the owner of the theater, library, etc.

    What if there was a device that would simply notify the management automatically that there was a transmission of sufficient power to be a conversation or text message coming from auditorium three, and he could then send one of his employees to investigate and boot the offending jackass. That way, in the event of an emergency, the projector could be shut down, the lights brought on, and the auditorium evacuated so the paramedics don't have to climb over the rubberneckers. In the event that it's just Joe Jackoff calling his honey, he could be quietly booted with no refund.

    I think that would work a lot better, and save the whole "Doctor on call" situation from occurring.

  • The key words that come up very often whenever the topic of cell phone jammers is raised are "theaters", "schools", "hospitals", etc. I hate some idiot's phone next to me ringing as much as anyone, but there is a pretty serious problem beyond the obvious "doctors and emergency staff have to be reachable" argument (in this case you can say "carry a pager", but pagers can be just as loud and annoying or quiet and discreet as cell phones ringing.)

    Specifically, many of the larger outbursts of civil disobedienc

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