GPS Jamming devices: FCC says No!

The FCC has become concerned about Jamming devices for Cellphones, GPS and WiFi.  So much so, they have released Enforcement Advisory No. 2012-02, which specifies fines in excess of $100,000 per incident.

The advisory states:

In recent days, there have been various press reports about commuters using cell phone jammers to create a “quiet zone” on buses or trains. We caution consumers that it is against the law to use a cell or GPS jammer or any other type of device that blocks, jams or interferes with authorized communications, as well as to import, advertise, sell, or ship such a device. The FCC Enforcement Bureau has a zero tolerance policy in this area and will take aggressive action against violators.

I have two three thoughts:

  1. GPS jammers are increasingly being employed by those who are concerned about their privacy.  That set of people can range from truckers who don’t what their bosses to know every aspect of their journey, citizens concerned about GPS tracking devices on their vehicles, or ordinary people who don’t want the phone company tracking their every move via GPS enabled cellphones.
  2. If only the FCC were as diligent and judicious in pursuit of other interference issues in the radio frequency spectrum.  A few that immediately spring to mind; IBOC to analog adjacent channels, broadband over power line, electrical noise on the medium wave band, illegal 2 way radios on RPU frequencies, etc.  Of course, there is no money in those issues.
  3. Wasn’t the FCC about to allow Lightsquared to install high powered 4G data transmitters all over the place, thus jamming GPS anyway?  I know they nixed that plan after the general uproar over loss of GPS by things like aircraft in flight, etc.

It remains to be seen how, exactly the FCC is going to find things like this:

Small GPS jammer
Small GPS jammer

Hypothetically speaking, in a mobile operating environment while traveling down the interstate at 70 MPH with thousands of other vehicles, it would be the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack.  This would be especially true for a GPS only jamming device, which would require a very small amount of power to jam the weak satellite signals.  It presents an interesting problem for the cash strapped enforcement bureau.

Not all jamming devices are this small, however.  After doing a Google search for GPS jamming devices I notice that some of them are great big honking things, with heatsinks and fans, capable of generating large signals on every cellphone, WiFi, 3/4G and GPS frequency.   Those larger jamming devices would be very easy to locate and disable.

Perhaps if the technology wasn’t so pervasive and readily abused by certain corporate and government entities, the desire to jam it wouldn’t exist.

2 thoughts on “GPS Jamming devices: FCC says No!”

  1. What the FCC should do is enforce the rest of the federal laws that many of these GPS devices are breaking…

    Like, illegally accessing stored communications
    illegally intercepting communications
    stalking

    GPS satellites were designed for the purpose of the Navigation Systems of the United States Military. The USA needs to put a stop to ALL devices that use GPS period. The purpose of a GPS device in a cell phone was to send the users location WHEN THEY INITIATE A CALL TO 911 in an emergency. I have seen websites like CNN.com that state that they can access your cell phones GPS system, in their user agreement. As far as I know, that is against federal law, and the FCC needs to step up enforcement in a big way.

    I tested one of these at one time or another, and most of these, like the one shown above, are harmless. They cover an area about the size of your car. The device generates wide band white noise….after cracking the thing open, it was basically a noise generator and did not really have any RF oscillators. It would be hard to argue that some of these violate any FCC rules as the noise is electrical in nature. You could argue that a neon sign or a fluorescent light bulb is a GPS jammer.

    There are lots of other things like security systems and poorly designed switching power supplies that cause interference, as well as some telco and CATV systems.

    I don’t use a jammer, it is easier to just not use a cell phone.

  2. And yes, I had a corporation that was stalking me, using its surveillance equipment to harass me.

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