Saw this interesting article on cellphone jamming last week and have been pondering the implications of it.
Purchased for about $2,000 each, they can be turned on by remote control and emit low-level radio frequencies that thwart cell phone signals within a 100-foot radius.
Users get a “no service” or “signal not available” message on their cell phones.
Although Mexico has no law against the devices, the private use of cell phone blockers is illegal in the United States and most Western countries.
But the tide is turning.
Japan allows public places such as theaters and concert halls to install jammers, provided they obtain a government-issued license. And last week, France’s industry minister approved a decision to let cinemas, concert halls and theaters install them — as long as provisions are in place so emergency calls can still be made.
Canada had considered allowing blocking in similar situations. But Industry Canada, which regulates the country’s telecommunications, decided against it, saying the devices could infringe on personal freedom and affect public safety by crippling communication with law enforcement and security agencies.
Officials at Netline, which sold its first jammer in 1998, say they are selling thousands of jammers a year and have expanded their business throughout the world.
They’re far from the only manufacturers. The devices are sold the world over, with dozens of suppliers selling them on the Internet.
It’s certainly satisfying to contemplate the prospect of going to church or a movie and not have to worry about an obnoxious ringtone suddenly emanating from the person sitting next to you. I think, though, there’s a good reason for the general ban in the US. The nuisance potential of a cellphone jammer is pretty high. Imagine a candidate’s campaign headquarters, set up in a little strip center somewhere, and the business next door decides to install a jammer for himself. These things have a range of 100 feet, so now none of Candidate Smith’s campaign workers can get a signal. Do they have any recourse? What if they suspect it’s a dirty trick? I’d hate to be the judge for that lawsuit. You could build in exceptions for churches or theaters or whatnot, but then what happens when someone releases a jammer with a range of 500 feet? The law always lags behind new technologies.
Anyway. I’m actually a bit surprised that there hasn’t been some kind of clamor to allow jammers in the US. It’ll be spirited when it happens, that’s for sure.