The Federal Communications Commission has slapped a Florida man with a $48,000 fine for using a cellphone jammer during his commute.
A Tampa Tribune story indicates that 60-year-old Jason Humphreys was caught last year with the device in the backseat of his car. He used it to block cellphone signals around his car to keep other drivers from making calls while they were driving.
He was discovered when cellular company Metro PCS reported to the FCC in April 2013 that the company was experiencing coverage problems along a stretch of Interstate 4 during the morning and evening commutes.
The FCC investigated a few weeks later and discovered what it called a “a strong wideband emission” coming from a blue Toyota Highlander.
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When Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies went to pull over Humphrey’s SUV they noticed that communication between their two-way radios was also jammed.
Upon searching the vehicle the deputies found the jammer under a seat cover on the backseat according to an article from PC World.
Humphreys admitted to the deputies that he had been using the device for 16 to 24 months. He told investigators he believed it was only jamming signals in a 30-foot radius around his vehicle, he had no idea it was affecting cell towers.
Larry McKinnon, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman, said the use of such a device, in any situation, is illegal and can be dangerous.
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“You are cutting off any communication for any type of emergency,'' he said. “You are potentially putting people's lives at risk.”
The FCC acknowledges that jammers are growing in popularity and can be purchased on the Internet. Schools and movie theaters have even considered using them to create “quiet zones.” In every case, though, that is a federal crime.
The agency’s website displays a clear warning about the use of the devices. It reads:
“We remind and warn consumers that it is a violation of federal law to use a cell jammer or similar devices that intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications such as cell phones, police radar, GPS, and Wi-Fi.”
With such a hardline stance against jammers the FCC could have fined Humphreys up to $337,000. Instead, the agency said, he got off with the maximum fine for a single violation.
Humphreys now has 30 days to notify the agency as to how he intends to pay.