Cell Phone Jammers fight obnoxious chatter

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Seeing Jennifer Lopez in her movie about a wife who gets revenge on an abusive husband taught viewers a lot of things.  Besides learning that People’s Most Beautiful Woman can pack a punch, one viewer used what she saw in the film to tip off an investigation regarding a man using a cell phone jammer on a bus in Philadelphia.

Who tipped off the police? A woman who works for NBC10, being referred to as “Erica” tipped off NBC investigators and told her side of the story to a blog called Philebrity.

“While riding the bus, my cell phone signal suddenly went out, which is not normal, and continued to search for a signal for 15 minutes. After a little while, I noticed that everyone else on the bus on his/her cell was having the same problem. Then, I see this guy.  He’s openly holding something that looks like a walkie talkie with four antennae in his hand the whole time. Anytime someone would try their cell again, this guy would subtly turn in their direction, press a button and point it at them, then continue reading his book under his creepy hood… I’m pretty sure it was one of those devices that cuts off signals; Jennifer Lopez used one in Enough, so that’s all the scientific analysis I need.”

Thank you, JLo.  When the man was eventually confronted and told the device was illegal and that he could be held to a $16,000 fine as well as time in jail he countered with the belief that the laws regarding cell phone jamming only made it “kind of illegal” and that it was a grey area.  In fact the laws regarding cell phone jammers are anything but grey.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers the “manufacture, importation, sale or offer for sale, including advertising, of devices to block or jam wireless transmissions to be prohibited.”   And via the Communications Act of 1934 “willfully or maliciously interfering with the radio communications of any station licensed or authorized to operate” is illegal. The reasoning behind the law is that a jammer can pose a threat to public safety and is also considered property theft.  The company that purchases the right to a particular radio spectrum and jamming that spectrum is technically stealing what that specific company has purchased.  The threat to safety exists because the device can prevent emergency calls to and from the cell phones in the area and can even disrupt police radar, GPS, and Wi-Fi.

What’s the reasoning behind the vigilante cell phone jammer? He was fed up with listening to people on their mobiles and even stated that he was “proud” of his actions that made his morning commute a little quieter.  Fans have praised his jamming claiming that they too are sick of people being rude and obnoxious everywhere from public transportation to movie theaters.

Alternatives to the cell phone jamming device already exist.  Studies have shown that some buildings don’t allow radio transmissions because of the amount of concrete or steel in its structure.  This is an accidental discovery, but since the laws only ban aggressive types of cell phone blockage companies are attempting to utilize passive ways to silence the chatty cell phone users.  One way is to integrate metal fragments into wall paper and building material to prevent signals from coming in or out.  Simultaneously, companies are working on technology that will force calls to go directly to voicemail in certain areas.  These machines walk the fine line between “jamming” and “controlling” and the FCC has not shared whether such machines will be authorized.

One organization has opted for a less technological approach.  The Society for HandHeld Hushing (SHHH!) believes “it is time to fight back!”  As a result they have created an online template for cards that you can print out and hand to someone who is discussing their personal conversations too loudly for their surrounding audience.  If you’re interested in getting some peace and quiet visit their website and pass out these relatively polite ways to ask someone to please shut up.

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