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25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
A series of posts describing how this all came about. (Click on picture above)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

It's a Busy Week at CTIA
Protecting the Use of
Cell Phones by Prisoners

Don't we all find cell phones convenient? Well incarcerated murderers and drug dealers find them very convenient for continuing their livelihood. Of course, if they are unfortunate enough to be in a federal prison they may not be able to do so because federal prisons have permission from NTIA to jam contraband cell phones. But those fortunate enough to be in state and local prisons are happy to know that their jailers are subject to FCC regulation and CTIA is doing everything it can to let murderers, drug dealers, and other assorted felons keep in touch with their pals.

On Tuesday, CTIA and their fine legal team filed a Petition for Reconsideration of D.C. Wireless Jammer Demonstration that had been authorized by WTB last week for a grand total of 30 minutes tomorrow! Not pleased that FCC did not immediately kowtow to their demand, they went to the federal court today and filed Petition for Writ of Mandamus on Wireless Jammers .

CTIA bases its logic on 47 USC 333:
No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this chapter or operated by the United States Government.

We have heard the court has asked FCC to reply by 8 PM tonight. Jeff Silva at RCR has written a nice article about this. Clearly it got a lot of interest since he got 14 responses posted in the first 2 1/2 hours after its release. Some on each side of the issue.

Does Section 303 unambiguously prohibit jamming by even a state government in an area where it has prohibited any cellphone possession or use? CTIA is looking for a showdown on this issue.

For a trade association that like to be proud about its contributions to public safety this is an odd battle to pick. Wouldn't it be better to sit down with prison management and explore a well engineered prison jamming system that protects outside users and then compare it with other alternatives?

I heard from Chris Guttman-McCabe, VP of Regulatory Affairs, at CTIA.
"While we believe that prisoners should not have access to wireless phones while incarcerated, there are other, non-interfering and legal ways to find and take the phones out of their hands. There are several companies that provide wireless detection systems that can be used by jails to identify and confiscate phones, and that do not interfere with wireless communications. As the FCC previously acknowledged, Congress has been clear in prohibiting the use of jammers in state prisons.”
So why doesn't CTIA fund a demonstration project of their preferred approaches? State and local governments are not exactly overflowing with funds these days.

I predict that this will be a battle CTIA will regret having started.
Even if they should win in court, they will get reversed quickly by Congress in a precedent that they will not like.

What is CTIA's real agenda here? Some corrections officials suspect it is to protect the revenue stream of CTIA members from prepaid (e.g. high price per minute) cell phones that are generally used as contraband. I am not so cynical and suspect they are afraid of the "camel's nose under the tent" problem in that prison jamming might lead to restaurant and theater jamming - which are allowed in some countries. But it is a far cry from jamming cell phones in prisons where their possession is illegal to jamming in reaturants where the use is just obnoxious.

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