NewsOxy.com, "news on the latest mobile phones and advancements in business technology", reported yesterday that FCC may be finally coming to its senses on the prison jamming of cellphones issue that we have previously reported on.
FCC spokesman Robert Kenny, previously ambiguous on the issue, is now quoted as saying, "FCC Chairman Kevin Martin understands the concerns of state and local law enforcement officials and is willing to work with them on this complex issue."
NewsOXY reports, "As part of a pilot program, (S.C.) state officials want to jam wireless signals used for mobile phones in prisons. Officials also want the state's US senators to introduce legislation to allow the technology to be used by local enforcement agencies."
On December 1, South Carolina sent FCC a letter petitioning
"for all necessary changes to FCC rules to allow state and local law enforcement and first responders (including corrections and jails) to use the surgical or directional jamming as needed to protect public safety."The letter also expressed disappointment that FCC "did not even send a representative to the cell-phone jamming demonstration that we hosted at Lieber Correctional Institution."
Previously, USA Today reported that Mr. Kenny "would not say whether the agency would act against South Carolina authorities" if they proceeded with a one day test of the technology within their prison.
CTIA remains opposed to all actions in this area. On November 12, 2008 CTIA showed its lack of interest in public safety by writing to FCC to oppose a one day test of cell phone jamming at a South Carolina prison.
Personally, while I agree with the intent of the South Carolina petition, I think that it is a little too broad. In most cases prison/jail jamming can be done without interfering with the public if it is done carefully. But I happen to have a client across the street from the Arlington Country (Va.) Jail and a look at that geometry indicates that jamming is not likely to be able to cover the whole jail without interfering with outside coverage. However, this is a result of the jail being in a high rise in a built up area and is not the usual case for the country's prisons and jails. In my previous post I suggested basing regulation of jammers on the rules NTIA has for GPS repeaters in Section 8.3.28 of the "NTIA Red Book" rather than just whether the location is a prison/jail.
CTIA's preferred solution to contraband cellphones in prisons (below)