Mobile phones are the modern cockroach – there are millions of them, you can’t keep them out no matter how hard you try, and if you hear one in the cinema you’re going to be pretty upset. A portable new device that jams handsets at the push of a button is selling like hotcakes, despite serious concerns about legality.
The New York Times reports on the spread of these communications crashing gadgets, wielded by those who fancy themselves noise pollution vigilantes but in many cases just have short tempers and big budgets. There are more valid uses, such as the schoolteacher who blocks cellphone reception in the classroom and the psychotherapist who shields his sessions from interruption with a surreptitious signaling device, but even these remain illegal.
The device functions by generating an extremely powerful transmission on the same frequencies the mobile phones use, swamping the signal and preventing the phone from making or continuing a connection. The effects of such devices in environments as hospitals or airports have not yet been discussed, but are expected to be hilariously revealed in lawsuits/arrests in the near future.
The root of the legal issue is that the cellphone companies pay incredible amounts of money for access to those frequencies and anyone interfering with that is getting in the way of money and, more importantly, government money. Even worse a user could find themselves targeted under any number laws containing the dread word “terrorism”.
The real issue for the innocent bystander is whether these devices will be legalised for use in appropriate environments, such as cinemas or libraries. Many would object to such a move, but should realise that this solution is much friendlier than my own preference – some kind of machine that shoots lightning bolts at any ignorant git who keeps their phone on during the movie.