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FCC offers prison boss phone jamming help

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has offered to work with South Carolina's prison boss to find a way to prevent mobile phones being used in prisons, but industry body the CTIA is calling on the FCC to get a court order preventing anyone from demonstrating the technology.

Prison chief Jon Ozmint recently called for states to be allowed to use jamming technology, a privilege currently restricted to federal authorities and has offered to demonstrate how the technology can be applied using equipment supplied by CellAntenna. However, the CTIA points out that any demonstration would be against the law, the Charlotte Observer reports:

"I hope you are disturbed as much as I am that CellAntenna would so brazenly violate federal law, especially where there are lawful alternatives to combating contraband in prisons," wrote Steve Largent, president of the CTIA representing the mobile operators, addressing the FCC.

Scanners and searches have already been tried in South Carolina and considered to be useless, and base-station triangulation isn't nearly accurate enough. Alternatives such as the phone tracking technology from Path Intelligence or setting up fake base stations are being considered by some prisons, though none have the simplicity of jamming the signals.

The increasing availability of jammers is causing concern north of the border too. The Ottawa Sun reports that the Mounties have sent out a warning to every police force in Canada after two Quebec police offices were left without radio contact when they pulled a car equipped with a jammer.

Ozmint has invited a congressional delegation, law enforcement officials, and the FCC to the demonstration next week - which could lead to a fine of up to $11,000 if anyone there takes umbrage at the way the law is being applied. ®

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