FCC Issues Enforcement Advisory Against Cell Phone and GPS Jamming Devices
March 12, 2012
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an Enforcement Advisory warning consumers that it is illegal to use a jamming device that blocks, jams, or interferes with authorized communications. It also cautioned that it is illegal to import, advertise, sell, or ship such a device. These types of devices, known as "jammers" and "signal blockers," have been reported to be used by consumers and businesses to block signals from cell phones, GPS devices, and other communications devices to create so-called "quiet zones" and block out unwanted conversations in settings such as mass transit trains and buses, homes, vehicles, schools, movie theaters, restaurants, and other public and private places.
Jammers typically work by emitting radio frequency waves that block all radio communications on any device that operates on radio frequencies within a certain range of the jammer. Jammers can prevent devices that are within the range of the jammer from making and receiving phone calls, text messages, and e-mails, connecting to the Internet, and using GPS signals. The FCC explained that jammers are illegal because they can interference with 9-1-1 emergency phone calls and disrupt police, law enforcement, and critical public safety communications.
The FCC's Enforcement Advisory makes clear that:
- Unless you are an authorized federal government user, you may not operate a jammer in the United States, even on private property.
- It is a violation of federal law to purchase a jammer online and ship it to the United States.
- It is illegal to sell or advertise jammers to individuals or businesses in an online auction or marketplace site and in retail stores.
- Violations can lead to monetary penalties of up to $112,500 for any single act, seizure of the illegal jammer, and criminal sanctions including imprisonment.
- The FCC has a zero tolerance police and will take aggressive action against violators.
A copy of the FCC's Enforcement Advisory is available here.