Feds Target Cell Phone and GPS Jamming Devices

cell phone jamming cellphone jammingThe Federal Communications Commission announced a sweeping new crackdown and public awareness campaign against the marketing, sale, and use of illegal cell phone and GPS jamming devices, which it warns can disrupt vital law enforcement and public safety communications, such as 911 calls.

The new campaign included two Enforcement Advisories, one aimed at consumers and the other at retailers and manufacturers of jamming devices. The consumer advisory spells out the illegality and dangers of jamming devices, while the other underscores the federal penalties for the manufacture and sale of jamming devices, which can include fines, seizure and imprisonment."Jamming devices create serious safety risks," Michele Ellison, Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, said in a statement. "In the coming weeks and months, we'll be intensifying our efforts through partnerships with law enforcement agencies to crack down on those who continue to violate the law. Through education, outreach, and aggressive enforcement, we're tackling this problem head on."

The bureau also released a downloadable poster on cellphone and GPS jamming that warns consumers, manufacturers and retailers -- including online and Web-based companies -- that the marketing, sale or use of cell, GPS and other jamming devices is a federal crime.

All these steps, the FCC said, highlight a new phase of the Bureau's ongoing efforts to halt the distribution and spread of illegal jamming devices. In the past two weeks, the FCC also issued warnings to four online retailers, ordering them to cease marketing jamming devices to customers in the U.S. or face stiff fines.

Underscoring the new clamp-down, the FCC launched proceedings to revoke the license of Shenzhen Tangreat Technology Co., Ltd. of Shenzhen, China, which manufactures and markets the TxTStopper, a device that blocks cell phone calls and texts. The FCC is also seeking to penalize the Chinese company $112,500 for "willfully and/or repeatedly violating" various federal laws against jamming devices.

Jamming devices transmit radio frequencies that block, jam or otherwise interfere with communications such as cell phone calls, text messages, GPS systems and Wi-Fi networks. Small, inexpensive jammers are increasingly being marketed online as the solution for noisy classrooms, theaters, restaurants or business meetings.

But these devices, the FCC notes, are indiscriminate and can block critical public safety and other emergency communications along with the targeted transmissions, which is why they are illegal to market, sell or use in the United States. A single violation of the jamming prohibition can result in tens of thousands of dollars in monetary penalties, seizure of the illegal device and imprisonment.

"While people who use jammers may think they are only silencing disruptive conversations or disabling unwanted GPS capabilities, they could also be preventing a scared teenager from calling 911, an elderly person from placing an urgent call to a doctor or a rescue team from homing in on the location of a severely injured person," Ellison said. "The price for one person's moment of peace or privacy, could be the safety and well-being of others."
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