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Jammin' - A Hit for Bob Marley, a Miss for Communications

by: Michele Ellison, Chief of Enforcement Bureau

February 9, 2011

Over the last several years, cell and GPS jammers have become increasingly portable and accessible to consumers on the Internet. These websites often mislead consumers, suggesting that cell jammers may be used lawfully to silence unwanted cell phone use in restaurants, movie theaters, or on the roads. And, some websites (including many based outside the U.S.) claim that individual consumers are responsible for determining the legality of their jammers.

Don't be fooled!

Because jammers are designed solely to block authorized communications, the marketing, sale, and operation of jammers is illegal in the United States. Why? Well, using jamming devices can endanger the public.

Jamming devices are indiscriminate. For example, when a cell jammer is used, the jammer's unwanted signal is often set to the same frequency as the phone signal, only stronger.

The jammer's signal can be so powerful that it cancels the signal of all phones in its range – yes, it may silence loud conversations disturbing those nearby, but it also can prevent a desperate teenager from calling 9-1-1 to report an accident, an elderly person from placing an urgent call to a doctor, or anyone else from successfully placing an emergency or other safety-related call.

Similarly, GPS jammers are often touted as "anti-spy" devices that can prevent an employer or a suspicious spouse from tracking your movements in your car. However, GPS jammers can also disable the E911 function in certain cell phones that allows emergency services to home in on 9-1-1 callers who are injured or otherwise unable to provide their location.

Given these real public safety concerns, the Enforcement Bureau has adopted a strict enforcement policy in this area. Leveraging the presence of the Bureau's Field Offices across the country, we will aggressively pursue violations wherever we find them.

We caution users and suppliers that violations are punishable by fines of up to $112,500 per violation, and could lead to criminal prosecution (including imprisonment) or seizure of the illegal device.

If you have questions about our enforcement of the jamming prohibition, you can email us at jammerinfo@fcc.gov.  To file a jammer-related complaint with the Enforcement Bureau, you should use the FCC’s online complaint form at www.fcc.gov/complaints.

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