Cellphone Jamming: Should It Be Legal or Not?

Cell Phone Jamming: Should It Be Legal or Not?We have all been in our favorite restaurant, at church, or maybe in the theater when someone’s cellphone has gone off. And whether the offending ringtone came from the Wizard of Oz, the Simpsons, or some other familiar source that might otherwise be entertaining and amusing, it was distracting, annoying, and even somewhat embarrassing in this context. To make things worse, the person receiving the call at this inappropriate time decided to go ahead and answer it without hesitation and proceeded to carry on a loud conversation with no regards to the others around them.

Once, while riding a metro train in Washington, DC, my fellow passengers and I were subjected to a man’s loud, argumentative conversation on his cellphone that included what can only be described as “too much information.” As he kept raising his voice, it was impossible for anyone else on the train to communicate with one another or even hear destination announcements. Sadly, I’m sure this is an experience that’s all too common in public places around the world — and one that’s familiar to all of us. I (and, I’m sure, you) have often wondered if there’s any reasonable way to silence these inconsiderate cellphone users in a manner that’s not equally disruptive to others (like a well-placed pop in the chops might be).

It does seem that some people have resorted to what is called jamming. Jamming is a process by which an electronic device is employed to stop the transmission of cellphone signals. For some, this may seem like a violation of someone’s civil rights, but when does one person’s disrespect of others become a violation of their rights? If you feel that you have a right to talk to your date in a restaurant or to enjoy a train ride by reading your newspaper, you may wish to write your congressman/congresswoman and ask them to look into these electronic devices.

We do know that these devices are readily available from such places as eBay or other online websites with a statement or two that alleges that the devices are legal to use. On the other hand, the legality issue may not even be mentioned and it then becomes the buyer’s responsibility to determine whether the devices are legal or not.

On the FCC website, the federal agency describes in detail what cellphone jamming devices are and why they are not legal for use in the US. The FCC states in no uncertain terms that jamming devices are not allowed and proceeds to explain that it is illegal to block any type of signal to any of the following devices:

  • Cellphones
  • Police radar
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS

The issue has become such a hot button subject that the FCC is requesting public comment on whether any transmissions should be jammed, including cellphone or Wi-Fi signals. You can read the request for comment on the FCC website. One may recall that BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) authorized the use of signal disruption during a protest, which brought the agency under severe criticism. While this is just one example of when jamming came under scrutiny, the importance of public input cannot be overstated. This means that this is your opportunity to respond with your opinion and I would recommend that you take the time to do so.

There are two opinions that side on the negative points of jamming electronic transmissions:

  1. Some feel that it is their ‘inalienable right’ to have coverage 100% of the time, everywhere they go, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They also feel that their loud volume and babbling conversations need to be shared with the world, no matter where they are or who they may offend.
  2. Others have the opinion that jamming a cellphone may prohibit someone from calling 911 in case of an emergency or another problematic situation.

On the other side of the issue is the argument that if people cannot respect their fellow citizens enough to either turn off their phones or, at the least, put them on vibrate, jamming should be allowed. They believe that a vibrating phone would allow the call’s receiver to leave the area or to respond unobtrusively to the person calling them.

Another solution has been offered in a recent article at Underwire that claims to have demonstrated a new technology that causes a disruption in a person’s speech patterns. The device uses what is called Delayed Auditory Feedback — or DAF — to disrupt a person’s normal speech patterns by delaying the feedback they normally receive while speaking. The device, called SpeechJammer, is a prototype and is currently in the testing phase. The only known drawback is that the device must be aimed at the person in need of disruption to work.

Given this information, I believe that while it may be annoying to those of us who are forced to listen to the personal calls of others, resorting to any type of signal jamming is against the law. That means that, until the law is changed, you could be the one prosecuted for trying to enjoy a peaceful evening on the town.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • RevDrWillman

    I was a phone jammer like you. Until I took an arrow in the knee.

    Actually, this device seems like an AWESOME idea to me. I mean, what if my spouse is trying to call 911 after I beat her bloody for burning my steak. That’s against family! She NEEDS that jamming.

  • Guest

    Cell phone jammers should not be legal for individuals to use but I am, ok with a place of business doing so if they communicate that to their patrons. As far as individuals being able to use a jammer, if you look past the fact that people walking around with cell phone jammers could disrupt cell phone service of anyone on a whim and all the problems that would cause, a cell phone jammer in the situations you described is a way passive way of dealing with a situation rather than addressing it directly. Why wouldn’t you ask the person to turn their phone off or step outside while they were on the phone? Is it because you don’t like conflict? Maybe the person doesn’t realize how disruptive they are being or maybe they would rather argue or fight. Who cares? Grow a pair and tell them to stop. If you don’t want to do that, then tell someone that works at the movie theater, or restaurant or subway and ask them to deal with it. When you are in public you don’t have any recourse but a business is going to want to retain their customers and if they ignore the problem then you are free to go somewhere else. Personally, I leave my phone in the car going into church or the movies and on date nights with my wife and I HATE when people do what you are describing. I chose to deal with it directly rather than just give them a nasty look and let it ruin my evening.

  • Don

    About 5 years ago I had one for the sole purpose of shutting down those damn NexTel walkie talkie phones.  Invariably some ignoramus at the bar (at my club) would either initiate or receive a call and then crank up the volume to compensate for the ambient noise level.  Yeah, rude rude rude.  I then decided to Google the availability of such a device and found a company in England.  I might point out that these devices are illegal to purchase, own or use in the U.S.A. and the FCC strictly prohibits this type of activity with penalties ranging from jail and/or stiff fines!  Okay, anyway, I got my device via US Mail (Registered!).  Worked great on Nextel and AT&T phones.  Shut ’em down 100%.  Nothing like seeing the reaction of this guy saying “wtf, no service!”  Ha ha.  He’d then go outside on the patio and continue his call.  I also found that Verizon was almost impervious to the jammer. 

    If one is intent on using a jammer, it’s IMPERATIVE that he not tell ANYONE.  Discretion is so important, for obvious reasons.  I also had occasion to use it at a fairly nice restaurant where I was having dinner with friends & family.  Some yo yo actually pulled out his Nextel to yack!  I just switched on my “toy” and set it to high power (5 watts with a range of 30 feet) and voila’ .. no more rudeness  at that table. 

    Yes, what I did was illegal and some might consider my actions rude and accuse me of infringing on First Amendment rights (??) but it got the job done.  What really irks me is that, almost without exception, establishments (other than movie theaters) do little or nothing to discourage this behavior.  Apparently they don’t wish to offend anyone? 

  • http://twitter.com/wgfinley W. Guy Finley

    I was at a play this past weekend, a play about terminal cancer patients and it was obviously intense. Despite MULTIPLE warnings about cell phones the jerk behind me left his on and kept receiving notifications throughout the performance. I so wish I would have had a jammer for that. I agree with the anon comment though – establishments should be able to jam cell phones on their premises. It is their property, the should be no law prohibiting them from using it as long as the jamming is confined to their property and verbal or posted notice is given at entry (restaurants) or before a performance (movie or drama theater).

  • http://technogadget.tv/ Liam Green

    I think it should. But only in certain places. 

  • Alex Bowers

    It should be allowed in a place like an exam hall or something, to ensure no cheating

  • Matthew Cheung

    I only think that people should be able to be jammed if they are in certain places such as theatres and restaurants and only be in that confined area.

  • rictownsend

    Yes for public spaces such as restaurants as long as the put a notice up!

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  • Bob Warren

     Have a Rock and Roll Tuesday Night!

  • Vicki

    Initially there used to be an etiquette on when you used your phone. Rember when it was frowned upon to talk one the phone in a restaurant? What  happened? Unfortunately people have absolutely no idea on how they inconvenient they are, and really their rights end when they begin to infringe on yours or anyone else’s. Thing is now days people think they have to be on the air 24/7! Trouble is that to legalize jammers you are opening up the possibility for use for criminal actions as well as people using it indiscriminately just for kicks. Instead there should be a law as to where and when you can use your phone…like the restriction for smoking. We will probably have to learn to “check our phones at the door” in the future!

  • Jeff Mayernik

     I want to ability to jam the particular cell phone that’s being used in an inconsiderate manner… Grabbing the phone and stomping on it gets me tossed out of restaurants too often….

  • Ernest Koncaba

    So long as it is posted in plain sight, a business should be allowed to jam cell phone use inside their business. If a person wants to make a call, they can leave the business and make thier call.

  • ransae

    In certain places Yes!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Devon-Day/1849647205 Devon Day

    Jamming should be kept illegal, no matter what. Cell phones have become a primary way to call 911 and, if someone is jamming cell signals during an emergency, this could lead to a injuries sustained by others or even death.

  • Lewis Wickes

    I think that cell phone jamming should be illegal!!

  • Old Dawg

    It would be great if it were possible to jam incoming signals and allow outgoing.  That way a person could still make a 911 call.  It would cut down on at least half of the rude behavior.

  • Guest

    Jamming is illegal and potentially dangerous. Our society absolutely relies on the availability of cell phone service as do public service officials. Confront the etiquette challenged directly.

  • nope

    I dont agree at all, rudeness is something we all have to deal with regardless. I can’t help but to think of being out to dinner and no one can get a hold of me when a serious emergency has happened. If you’re out in public you have to deal with the public in all their infuriating glory. Grow a set and tell people to shut it….I have told many many people in theaters to knock it off, plus the manager will kick people out for being disruptive, you just have to have the gumption to complain.

  • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

    I think a place of business should be allowed to jam signals on its property if it so desires. But just as there are individuals who can’t be trusted to use their cellphones responsibly, you know there are people who would abuse jammers, as well. For that reason alone, it’s probably for the best that they’re illegal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1813155844 Antim Evtimov Batchev

    I dont think this should be legal in public places or any place of social interaction … in private work places the government and military bases yes i totally agree but in public places this shouldn’t be legal in any way shape or form its violating the right of speech of the people 

  • Don

    In a follow up comment, partially directed to “Nope”.  Yes I’ve complained, but always to the manager (if at a restaurant). Why should anyone confront the offender?  It’s not my place to do that.  It’s the responsibility of the proprietor to take care of problems, not me.  I see many comments in this thread, both pro and con on jamming.  Let me follow up on my original comment by saying that, once the offender relocated to an outside area, or shut the phone off, I immediately shut down my device. I agree that emergency calls such as a babysitter calling is of course a priority.  My biggest problem was with the NexTel devices that were popular at the time.  They’ve since (for the most part) gone the way of the Edsel!  Texting appears to be the number one useage now, and that’s okay with me.  I can’t hear words.  

  • Colton Hooke

    You’d think some cell phone companies would be law suiting this like crazy.

  • Don

    Apparently, some readers are NOT reading before making comments.  Jamming devices and their use is TOTALLY ILLEGAL IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  IT’S ILLEGAL TO PURCHASE, OWN OR USE … PERIOD.  It’s not a matter of whether or not they can be used some places but not others.  No individual or business can legally jam an rf signal by using a device that generates rf.   Of course, businesses can utilize other means by way of PREVENTING signals to enter the building, such as a wire mesh lining between the walls and ceilings (known as a Faraday Cage). If this is the case, then I would hope the establishment would post a notice informing customers that cellphone use is unavailable.  

    One reader mentioned having to deal with rudeness as it’s a way of life!  No way!  Why should I (or anyone) have to deal with rudeness and ignorance, especially when it means my evening is being ruined?  And to “Vicki” … thank you for that comment stating that those individuals lose their rights when they infringe on mine.  Thank you.  That really says it all. 

    I guess I’m old fashioned, having grown up in the 50’s when doors were held open for a lady, and gentlemen ALWAYS walked on the outside of a sidewalk with a lady.  The neighborhood I lived in (a suburb of Boston) was a real neighborhood, and respect for ones neighbor was the rule, not the exception.  One did NOT attend church service wearing a tank top, shorts and flip flops either.  Okay, sorry for drifting off topic, but I think the subject of Cell Phone jamming devices reverts back to these basics.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.  Peace

  • http://bruceandsallywitt.wordpress.com/ Sally K Witt

    Wow, so much to both sides of the issue.

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