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FCC Issues Forfeiture Notices to Two Business for Jamming Cellular Frequencies 350

An anonymous reader writes "The FCC, responding to anonymous complaints that cell phone jamming was occurring at two businesses, investigated and issued each a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture and Order (NAL). You can read the details of the investigation and calculation of the apparent liability in each notice below. Businesses engaged in similar illegal activity should note the public safety concerns and associated fines. From the article: 'The FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture and Order to each business: The Supply Room received an NAL in the amount of $144,000 (FCC No. 13-47), while Taylor Oilfield Manufacturing received an NAL in the amount of $126,000 (FCC No, 13-46).'"
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FCC Issues Forfeiture Notices to Two Business for Jamming Cellular Frequencies

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  • Tip of the iceberg (Score:3, Interesting)

    by johnny5555 ( 2843249 ) on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:11PM (#43457883)
    Seems like a LOT of businesses do this, unless it's a coincidence that I lose service right after stepping inside tons of different stores.
  • It should be legal (Score:1, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:11PM (#43457891) Journal
    I think cell phone jamming should be legal. Companies should be allowed to apply for permits to have them and use them reasonably. Theaters are the obvious place, and jails are a second good place. Using a cell phone jammer as a tester is extremely useful as well, and much easier to use than a faraday cage.

    And before you talk about doctors or someone who needs a constant connection, well, there are buildings I know of that don't receive cell signals because of their construction. They've been that way for decades, and doctors have learned to cope. They can deal with theaters, too.
  • by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Monday April 15, 2013 @10:40PM (#43458027)
    Is it just an interesting coincidence that both are being charged with the importation of cell phone jammers and both "The Supply Room" in Oxford Alabama and "Taylor Oilfield Manufacturing" in Broussard Louisiana had
    -- 5 cell phone jammers purchased from overseas
    -- 4 were in active use at the time of inspection / catching them
    -- 1 was a "backup" in storage at the time
    -- both were investigated because of an "anonymous call"

    I think it's more likely that the FCC started investigating those companies which had done business with the overseas supplier of the cell phone jammers. Wouldn't that make more sense than "anonymous" tipsters?

  • Re:FCC=BS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by innocent_white_lamb ( 151825 ) on Monday April 15, 2013 @11:17PM (#43458213)

    In my movie theatre, that's exactly what I do. I have a "turn cell phones off" sign in my lobby, and I play a policy trailer saying the same thing (within a little cartoon) before every show. After that, if I see the light from your phone I'll ask you once to turn it off. The second time I'll ask you to come to the lobby with me, and will show you the door when you get there.

    I have very little trouble with cell phones in my theatre.

  • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Monday April 15, 2013 @11:54PM (#43458329) Homepage

    And yet none of those businesses are theaters.

    You really think jamming is widespread, except in places where you'd want it?

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @12:24AM (#43458457)

    "Instead of "passively blocking", I think you mean "shielding". As in a " Faraday cage". This doesn't hamper signals outside of the structure."

    It's mostly due to bad reflections, interference, and simple attenuation. Unless a building is entirely steel clad, modern buildings make terrible Faraday cages.

    Even with steel studs at 18" centers, that's more than 3 times the wavelength of 2GHz signals. Aside from studs, beams and girders and the like, even in a building with a lot of them, are nowhere near close enough to make a Faraday cage at those wavelengths.

  • by KGIII ( 973947 ) <> on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @12:25AM (#43458461) Journal

    All of what you said is true but it made me think...

    Should you have a right to use a radio on my property?

    I don't own the spectrum, I don't own the device, I simply own the land. Should I be allowed to block RF (regardless of how beneficial this plan may be, no matter how ineffective, etc - we're simply concerned with rights and not efficacy) on my land?

    This is different than a place of employment and I'm not speaking of places generally open to the public. I'm strictly speaking about my property - we can even limit it specifically to an area centralized around my living quarters so as to avoid any blocking from overlapping onto neighboring property. There is no situation where ones blocking should be allowed to impact neighboring property.

    Now, I can't think of a legitimate reason to block RF on my land or anything like that - but that's not the point. It seems that I tend to take a rather heavy handed approach when it comes to personal freedom and property rights.

    I'm not attempting to be negative nor am I attempting to start an argument. I am unsure of what to think and thus my question - I really don't know. As the spectrum is considered communal property and is regulated as such there is the argument that restricting someone's right to their property (the spectrum they're allowed to use legally) is wrong. Yet, for some unknown reason, one may wish to prevent people from using a ham radio, CB, etc on their property and actively seek to block it. Should they be allowed to do so? Should they be allowed the right to prohibit radio communication from their property?

    I don't really know - I am leaning towards a, "Yes, they should be allowed to block it on their own private property while assuring that none of their blocking methods impact any portion of neighboring property." Again, I can't think of any logical reason why someone would want to block that so I'm mostly curious as to your (and other people's) opinion on where the line should be drawn.

    In fact, all I can picture is some hillbilly drawling out that he "doesn't want none of your radio frequency being utilized on this here property." It's ridiculous at face value but the question remains the same where freedoms are concerned.

    Also... We already have national radio quiet zones where anything of the sort is expressly forbidden but I don't think that the reasons they are allowed to enact such regulations apply to private property very well and they aren't actually blocking RF so the two aren't really related. *just wanted to cover that to avoid potential confusion*

    Anyhow, yeah - it made me think. I'm unsure and I'm sure I haven't considered everything. Thoughts?

  • by smpoole7 ( 1467717 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @12:44AM (#43458557) Homepage

    >unless it's a coincidence that I lose service right after stepping inside

    A typical mobile phone might still show a signal if there is interference; you just wouldn't be able to make a call. (That's basically what "jamming" is: interference done on purpose.) If you're showing *no* signal, that's probably just the building blocking the RF.

    Here in Birmingham, AL, there's a spot on I-65 where my phone shows tons of signal, but I invariably lose a call there, because of interference.

    Having dealt with the FCC a time or two (I'm a radio engineer, AM/FM), I read the NAL. These yahoos weren't just jamming cell signals inside their facility. That's illegal enough, but the NAL makes it clear that they WERE spilling signal all over the place. The FCC's field engineer was able to triangulate the building's location, getting a positive ID. They should have been shut down.

    Look: you can discourage cell use with a faraday cage or other shielding, as some here have mentioned. If you're using a jammer, f'crying out loud, you DEFINITELY need shielding, anyway, or you're going to be interfering with people well outside of your facility.

  • Re:FCC=BS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @12:44AM (#43458559)

    What do you mean "that way it's their choice"? Are you somehow forced to use your phone a second time? If you simply can't resist the temptation to answer then there's an off button or airplane mode that comes standard on every phone. As for being cheated - if the policy clearly states that obnoxious people will be asked to leave then you had fair warning as to the consequences of your actions, and even one personal warning in response to your obnoxiousness is being generous, after all YOU (as the person using their phone) are the one being rude, and your rudeness is impacting every single person within earshot or line-of-sight.

  • Time to compromise? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GWBasic ( 900357 ) <slashdot@andrewr ... com minus author> on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @01:40AM (#43458789) Homepage
    I think its time to dedicate a very narrow-band low-frequency for a polite "bit." Any business should be able to apply to purchase a transmitter with a 25-foot radius that sets cell devices to silent or vibrate. Perfect for restaurants and theaters, yet it still allows people to use their devices.
  • by gordo3000 ( 785698 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @01:58AM (#43458823)

    banks regularly jam signals on the trading floor during trading hours. In NYC I used to get perfect signal until 8:15 (or 8:30) and then got none at my seat until 5 PM every day. I could even tell when they changed settings from pure equity trading hours to CME trading hours. But, if I walked to the lobby of the trading floor I had full signal.

    That is one bank and I've been told by friends at other banks it's the same there.

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @04:19AM (#43459191)

    You're right, but freedom goes both ways. The fundamental problem is that RF is a finicky beast that doesn't have a brick wall fall-off effect to prevent you from exceeding legitimate bounds. It's not illegal to block RF, it's only illegal to spew garbage into the spectrum, and many would probably say that since the enforcement of such effects relies on complaints rather than on compliance monitoring providing you ONLY jam signals on YOUR PRIVATE land, you would never actually get investigated.

    The reality though is that attempts to jam cells on your land effectively will nearly always involve some RF noise spewing off your land, in some frequencies maybe even reflecting off the atmosphere and landing elsewhere. I've seen many cases of bizarre RF coverage. Our 2-way system at work with it's omni directional antenna on a tower has problems some 500m down the road with almost line of sight, yet works just fine from my home 13km away in a valley, not on a hill.

    RF is in the real world quite unpredictable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:48AM (#43460173)

    One bank I used to work for, upon moving in, discovered that signal strength was awful on the floors they'd rented. They actually paid a company to measure signal strength at various points across the floor from various providers. So they then arranged with the major carriers to install antennas inside the building itself, on each floor. Perhaps during trading hours, they simply power down those antennas. But that's a different animal than jamming.

  • by quetwo ( 1203948 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @01:36PM (#43463913) Homepage

    Every day at 8:45 my cell phone still has full bars, but can't place or receive phone calls. Turns out a train carrying 600 people is sitting right outside my window at the train stop. 20 minutes later, it get better when it moves on. Trust me, the explanation is often a lot easier if you look at it holistically.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling