FCC Issues Two Forfeiture Notices for Cell Phone Jamming
On April 9, the FCC found two businesses -- The Supply Room in Oxford, Alabama and Taylor Oilfield Manufacturing in Broussard, Louisiana -- to have “apparently willfully and repeatedly violated Sections 301, 302(b), and 333 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and Sections 2.803(g) and 15.1(c) of the Commission’s rules by operating multiple cellular phone jammers.” In addition, the FCC found that both businesses each imported five illegal signal jamming devices in violation of Section 302(b) of the Act and Sections 2.1203 and 2.1204 of the Rules; Section 2 dictates the conditions under which radio frequency devices may be imported into the US. The FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture and Order (NAL) 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).
The FCC received anonymous tips that cell phone jamming was occurring at both businesses. By using direction finding techniques, FCC agents discovered “strong wideband emissions in the cellular bands” that they determined to be “one or more signal jammers” at each site. Both The Supply Room and Taylor Oilfield Manufacturing admitted to the agents that they had each purchased five signal jammers off of the Internet from overseas sources.
While The Supply Room’s general manager admitted to the FCC agent that the jammers were in place “to prevent its employees from using their cellular phones while working” and they had been in operation for more than two years, the manager of Taylor Oilfield Manufacturing told the FCC agent that it “utilized the jamming devices to prevent its employees from using their cellular phones while working, apparently following a near-miss industrial accident that allegedly was partially attributable to employee cell phone use,” and that the jammers had only been in operation “for a few months.” Both entities voluntarily surrendered their jammers to the FCC.
“Signal jamming devices operate by transmitting powerful radio signals that overpower, jam or interfere with authorized communications,” the FCC noted. “While these devices have been marketed with increasing frequency over the Internet, with limited exception, they have no lawful use in the United States. Jammers are not only designed to impede authorized communications and thereby interfere with the rights of legitimate spectrum users and the general public, but also are inherently unsafe. For example, jammers can be used to disrupt critical public safety communications, placing first responders like law enforcement and fire fighting personnel -- as well as the public they are charged with protecting -- at great risk. Similarly, jammers can endanger life and property by preventing individuals from making 9-1-1 or other emergency calls. In order to protect the public and preserve unfettered access to emergency and other communications services, the [Communications] Act generally prohibits the importation, use, marketing, manufacture, and sale of jammers. The Commission has issued several enforcement advisories and consumer alerts emphasizing the importance of strict compliance in this area and encouraging public participation through the Commission’s jammer tip line.”
The FCC directed both The Supply Room and Taylor Oilfield Manufacturing to submit payment in full by May 9, 2013, or file a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture. Both entities were also directed to file a statement to be signed under penalty of perjury no later than May 9, 2013, that would provide information concerning the source(s) from which each business purchased or received the jamming devices.