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Enforcement Bureau Jammer Initiative

”In recent years, the number of websites offering “cell jammers” or similar devices designed to block communications and create a “quiet zone” in vehicles, schools, theaters, restaurants, and other places has increased substantially. While these devices are marketed under different names, such as signal blockers, GPS jammers, or text stoppers, they have the same purpose. We remind and warn consumers that it is a violation of federal law to use a cell jammer or similar devices that intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications such as cell phones, police radar, GPS, and Wi-Fi. Despite some marketers’ claims, consumers cannot legally use jammers within the United States, nor can retailers lawfully sell them.”

The above text and poster appeared on the FCC website last week as part of a multimedia offensive against illegal jammers. This offensive included an “Enforcement Advisory for Users”, an “Enforcement Advisory for Retailers and Manufacturers”, a news release, a web page on jammer enforcement, a blog on jammer enforcement, and even a Twitter feed on jammer enforcement!

Readers may
recall that FCC foot dragging on enforcement of existing jammer rules and laws has been a recurring theme here and the subject of a recent FCBA talk by your blogger. (By contrast, your blogger disagrees with mainstream thinking within the cellular industry on whether the FCC could authorize limited jamming in prisons and on the meaning of Section 333 of the Communications Act.)

The EB “Jammer Enforcement” lists 68 enforcement actions against jammer since 10/04 - impressive at first look. However, a little analysis shows what is really happening here. Only one of these involved a fine (“NAL” in FCC jargon). That involved the appropriately named Phonejammer.com . In this case FCC issues a citation to the company on May 22, 2008 and issued the NAL on April 20, 2010 - 698 days later! It is unclear if Phonejammer.com ever paid the NAL or just morphed into another corporate identity.

The only other fines on the list going back to 2004 are also telling. They both involve Rocky Mountain Radar, a manufacturer of police radar jammers. The 8/14/07 Forfeiture Order has this explanation:

On January 31, 2007, the Spectrum Enforcement Division issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture ("NAL") in the amount of $25,000 to RMR. RMR has not filed a response to the NAL. Based on the information before us, we affirm this forfeiture.

Thus RMR did not even bother responding to FCC/EB! I suspect other jammer sellers will get the message here. A review of the RMR website seems to indicate that similar products are still being sold and they are still selling manuals for the models listed in the citation.

Thus not withstanding the new tweets and blog posts, there is nothing here that would really scare a firm intent upon selling either cell phone or GPS jammers. More puzzling than the FCC/EB inaction on the jamming issue is why CTIA and NAB condone the ineffectual enforcement. CTIA seems more concerns about keeping strictly regulated jamming out of maximum security prisons in rural areas where they could save lives than in keeping wantonly illegal jammers out of the market.

What is needed in jammer enforcement is not tweets about noncredible enforcement, rather some real enforcement! Let me repeat my call from the January FCBA talk:

  • Incumbent spectrum users need to work together to advocate an effective compliance/enforcement program at FCC

  • Recommend major trade groups form a compliance/enforcement advocacy consortium
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