Reclamation of personal space through application of superior RF output.

05 November 2007

I think that it's safe to say that everyone's been annoyed at one time or another by someone in a restaurant, on a bus, or in a store by someone who was carrying out a loud conversation on their cellular telephone and refused to make any effort to leave the area. Now, there are some of us who sometimes don't have a choice in the matter (like those of us who are on call for work, though many of us at least make the attempt to get away from everyone else in an attempt to not be rude), but there are others who simply don't care, and won't even try to go someplace away from others. As a reaction to this phenomenon, people are designing and selling jammers that block all cell reception in a limited area to force those people to shut up. I suppose it says something about politeness and decorum these days that there are people who'll jump past "Could you please keep it down?" and go right to the heavily artillery. Right now, the jammers are produced overseas (outside of the jurisdiction of the FCC) but they've noticed the numbers with which they're being imported into the country, probably at the request of the cellular telephone industry, nevermind the fact that jamming for any reason is illegal in this country. Some of these devices are powerful enough to block out reception in an entire building; others are about the size of a pack of cigarettes and can create a 30 foot bubble without cellular contact as long as the power cells hold out.

Now, as much as I'm a fan of reclaiming space, I have a problem with this because, as the FCC so astutely observed, these devices have the potential to cause harm to people, in the form of emergency calls not getting through. I can't help but think back to the fall of 2001 when I saw a young woman on a bicycle hit by a car on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Needless to say, I and a number of other people within eyeshot called 911 within seconds, but we wouldn't have been able to do anything if someone had one of these jammers with them. Given the attitudes of some of the people who carried jammers with them, I can't help but wonder if they would have turned it off or not at that moment.

I don't know yet if anyone's developed a device that could take down the next biggest source of noise pollution in this country, iPods cranked up loudly enough that I can hear the music ten feet away.