FCC: Man used device to jam drivers' cell phone calls

Florida man fined $48,000 for driving around with a phone jammer in his car. Police alerted when Metro PCs reports constant problems with a cell tower.

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One type of jammer that can be bought. Click for video. WFTS-TV screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Thin is the line between traffic jam and traffic jammer.

At least that's what it was for Jason R. Humphreys.

Humphreys, it appears, was frustrated with people making cell phone calls in their cars. This despite it being perfectly legal in his Florida. (Texting and driving is illegal, unless you're stationary.)

So he allegedly did what few right-thinking people would have done. He allegedly put a cell phone jammer in his car. Yes, all the time. For 16 to 24 months.

The Federal Communications Commission says it only caught up with him after Metro PCS reported problems with a cell phone tower on Florida's I-4. The darned thing kept failing every morning and evening.

The FCC thought this odd too. So its operatives did what you've seen in a lot movies: they organized a stakeout.

However, they weren't looking to catch someone in a bedroom or a bar handing over wads of cash or meeting with unseemly types.

No, they just tried to monitor the waves. What they found was a "strong wideband emission." What they found was that these waves were being emitted from a blue Toyota Highlander.

Indeed, they felt sure something was amiss here, because when sheriffs stopped the car in May last year, their own two-way radios gave out.

The FCC says there was a jammer in Humphreys' car and he allegedly declared that he simply didn't like people talking on their phones in cars.

He also allegedly said he thought the jammer would only work over a radius of around 30 feet.

It's unclear which specific jammer was used, but it's not as if Humphreys is the first American to decide that he'll do something about people yakking on cell phones while moving from place to place.

A couple of years ago, a Philadelphia man got so annoyed with gassers on his bus, he simply carried a little jammer every day and claimed peace.

Even more blessedly human was the truck driver who last year used a GPS jammer so that his bosses wouldn't know where he was. Sadly, he ended up interfering with the satellite systems at Newark airport.

Oh, by the way, these jammers aren't exactly legal. They could interfere with vital communications, just at the time they're most needed. Indeed, the FCC says this jammer "was capable of jamming cellular and PCS communications in at least three frequency bands: 821-968 MHz, 1800-2006 MHz, and 2091-2180 MHz."

Indeed, the FCC is asking that Humphreys pay $48,000 for unauthorized operation of a jammer, use of an illegal device and causing intentional interference.

$48,000 is a lot more than his jammer cost. Some go for as little as $100.

Forcing other people to do what you want is often unproductive. I wonder, though, how Humphreys might have enjoyed his mornings and evenings, knowing that the only sounds emanating from cars might have been the dulcet tones of Styx, Iron Maiden, and Mariah Carey.

He currently is in the 30-day period during which he has to pay. He seems to have got himself into something of a jam.

For the sheriff's office, this is a question of morality.

As Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon told WFTS-TV: "The moral issue is that it's just very dangerous."

 

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