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FCC institutes new rules on cell phone signal boosters

In order to use boosters, consumers must register them with carriers and ensure that they obtain permission to use them.

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday announced new regulations for cell phone signal boosters.

Under the new rules, anyone who has a signal booster or plans to buy one must obtain permission to use it from their carrier. If permission is obtained, the signal booster must be registered with the carrier to ensure it meets specifications and all parties are aware of its use.

The FCC's rules, which were first brought to the floor in 2011, take aim at reducing interference with wireless networks. Signal boosters are designed to connect to cell phones to improve a connection with towers in areas where carrier service could be better. Although they work relatively well in that function, the FCC argues that they can also cause interference with key networks and even "emergency and 911 calls."

The regulations shouldn't negatively affect too many users. According to the FCC, the top carriers in the U.S. -- Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T -- have already agreed to provide full permission to any customer who wants to use signal boosters. Most devices available for purchase fall within the FCC's specifications.

The new rules, which were enacted yesterday, were passed unanimously by FCC commissioners. Starting March 1, 2014, all signal boosters must comply with the specifications.

Wilson Electronics, a company that sells signal boosters, welcomed the new regulations in a blog post yesterday, saying that it was "a major victory not only for our industry, but also for the end users who benefit from added levels of safety, security, and satisfaction with their service through the use of signal boosters."

One other important note from the FCC's announcement yesterday: Carriers will not charge customers for using signal boosters.

(Via Ars Technica)