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Phone jamming devices eyed to stop illegal inmate calls

16 июля 2009

The top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee wants to allow jailors to jam cell phone connections inside prisons despite protests from the wireless industry and nonprofit media advocates.

"When a single call can result in someone's death, we have an obligation to exhaust every technology at our disposal," said the committee's ranking Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas at a Wednesday hearing.

Current law bans jamming devices in all but a few isolated instances.

Hutchison has introduced legislation that would allow prisons to petition the Federal Communications Commission to use cell phone jamming devices as long as they don't cause interference with bona fide communications from first responders outside the prison's walls.

The bill is a long way from becoming law, but it could open a new market for wireless and intelligence companies that deploy similar technologies in other countries and for the U.S. military.

CellAntenna Corp., for example, sells specialized cell jamming equipment around the world.

ITT Corp.'s Intelligence and Information Warfare division contracts with the government for both cell jamming and cell detection technologies.

Hutchison is reacting to reports of massive increases in contraband cell phones that are smuggled into prisons. In Texas, one state official was threatened from inside a prison by a death row inmate.

CTIA, the wireless association, is opposed to Hutchison's measure. CTIA President Steve Largent said jamming technologies could hamper public safety communications systems and private citizens' calls.

Hutchison said she is working with AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, to respond to their concerns about jamming. The two telecom giants are members of CTIA.

Media advocacy groups like Public Knowledge, the New America Foundation and Media Alliance share CTIA's concerns. In a letter sent Tuesday to Hutchison and Committee Chairman John Rockefeller, D-W.V., these groups and others said the law's absolute ban on jamming technologies is essential for preserving the public airwaves.

"This provision has made it possible for licensees to design our current complex system of radio communication, cellular service, and other wireless networks secure in the knowledge that no one will deliberately interfere with their signals," the letter said.

CTIA says cell detection systems that locate unauthorized cell phone use offer a better solution to stopping illegal inmate calls. Corrections officers can use those devices to track illegal calls and seek wiretaps to bust gang crime.

ITT's cell detection device, called Cell Hound, has been deployed in several states. ITT Director of Security Products Terry Bittner said in an interview that few policymakers are aware of the effectiveness of cell detection because the devices work better in secret as an intelligence tool. In that spirit, ITT hasn't pursued public attention for its products, Bittner said.

CellAntenna CEO Howard Melamed told Dow Jones Newswires that jamming is the only way to ensure criminals don't use cell phones to call out crimes.

"There is no 100% fool proof way of turning off a cell phone unless you use jamming," he said.


Источник: Total Telecom

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