Cell phone jammers need regulation

There is hardly a person in America who has not — at one point in their daily lives — been inconvenienced by an over-zealous cell-phone user. These avid talkers can be found everywhere. They add worthless decibels to subway rides, restaurant dining rooms and movie theaters. Now, however, renegade citizens are fighting back and reclaiming the serenity of a quiet commute and a peaceful night out with the use of the cell phone jammer.

According to the Communications Act of 1934, blocking the radio transmissions of a company allowed to transmit them is illegal. The United States government considers the blocking of these transmissions to be property theft. The cell phone jammer, a small electronic device which blocks cell phone radio frequencies, is illegal in the United States because of this act. Yet, their use throughout the United States is abundant — and it needs to cease.

According to James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University, speaking to The New York Times, there is a battle occurring between cell phone users, those paying customers who feel their right to be connected should be unabridged for any reason, and the cell phone jammer, one who feels that his right to enjoy a quiet night in a fancy restaurant — where he is paying for the experience — is equally defendable.

Cell phone companies will argue that they have bid heavily on the right to operate on the radio frequencies they own. Citizens will argue that they, in turn, have paid for the right to send and receive such signals. Safety advocates will argue that the cell phone is an emergency communication device that connects mother and daughter, attorney and client, or doctor and patient like never before.

It cannot stand that a private citizen seeking to silence an annoyingly gabby teenager on the subway should be allowed to disrupt all other communications within a given distance from the cell phone jammer. The owner of the upscale restaurant must understand that in the communication age, the mutual fund manager cannot help but check-in on up-to-the-second financial news, even during dinner.

The worst-case scenario, cell phone advocates will attest, is one in which a jammer cuts out the conversation of the 13-year-old gossip queen while around the corner a frantic woman is attempting to call an ambulance for her husband who had fainted. The FCC currently fines individual jammer users up to $11,000 for a first offense. Yet individual users remain extremely difficult to detect. A campaign should be put in place to educate cell phone users to the existence of these devices so that, while the annoying calls do continue, the completion of the emergency calls is assured.

Staff Editorial The Daily Campus U. Connecticut U-Wire