The news about teacher (and former pro-wrestler!) Dean Liptak getting in hot water for blocking cell phone signals in his Fivay High School classroom was exactly the wrong reaction on the part of administrators (and the government to be honest).
Sure, what he did was technically illegal. The Federal Communications Commission says "use of ’cell jammers’ or similar devices designed to intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications (signal blockers, GPS jammers, or text stoppers, etc.) is a violation of federal law." Hell, it’s illegal to even sell jammers in the U.S., but they’re easy enough to buy from overseas (as long as the retailer doesn’t get caught). The only legal buyers of such equipment are government employees.
Liptak is getting off light (five-day suspension without pay); a Florida man with a jammer in his car for months got fined $48,000. At least one priest has used a jammer after calls happened during sermons and even a funeral—and he supposedly got the go-ahead from the police.
Sure, the driver, and the priest, and the teacher may have used some questionable judgment since the jammers blocked more than just their limited locations. But they all jammed with the best of intentions, and perhaps Liptak had the best reason of all: to get the little brats we call our future to pay attention for once.
Back in the days of yore, in-class distractions were limited to things like seeing something out the window (SQUIRREL!), passing folded notes, or maybe sneaking in a comic book. Now, a student can do all that and a 1,000 other things on one screen. How does a teacher of any quality compete with YouTube, Snapchat, Trivia Crack, or even PornHub? Putting a filter on the local school Wi-Fi network doesn’t mean squat to a kid with unlimited data from mommy and daddy’s family plan.
Rather than condemn Liptak, society should look into ways to empower teachers who need this assist. The FCC and Congress should be creating exceptions to the Communications Act of 1934 upon which many of the cell jammer limitations are based. Businesses should be allowed to find new ways to make easily controlled jamming devices.
Because, let’s face it, there are multiple places where it would be an excellent idea for jammers with limited, fine-tuned range, to be used judiciously:
Theaters I’ve been on the wrong end of a couple of cell phone calls at movie theaters in the last few years. Namely, in the middle of a movie, people’s phones not only went off, but the idiot in question answered, then proceeded to have a conversation, at normal volume, as if that’s perfectly okay, and not grounds for justifiable homicide. (At one of those films—the execrable Land of the Lost, so perhaps I should have been grateful for the distraction—I actually stood up and said to the offender, "Are you kidding me?" I like to think the rest of the audience applauded, but I couldn’t hear anything over the hate-blood pounding in my ears.)
Concert goers, Broadway aficionados, film buffs, and many more would not need to worry about such rudeness if theaters utilized jammers that kicked in the second the lights dim. Sure, there’s always emergencies, or doctors on call, or parents who must be sure the baby-sitter can reach them, etc. But those people should find a different way to spend their night out.
Restaurants The sign should read: No short, No shoes, Using Phone, NO Service. Customers who can’t bother to place an order with a server because they’re in the middle of a call should get a 35 percent tip forced on their bill. Better yet, the bistro’s jammer should cut this so-called customer off—if the call is so damn important, they can go outside.
The Workplace There’s no question that in most offices, email and the Internet are absolute necessities. But are cell phones? In a survey by Pew Research, only 24 percent of adults with full- or part-time jobs listed a cell or smartphone as "very important" to getting their work done. In other research, 50 percent of bosses think a cell phone is a negative to workplace productivity.
There are plenty of places where it’s actively dangerous to be using a cell phone—but the devices are probably snuck on to warehouse or assembly line floors all the time. If employers could jam signals but allow for emergency calls, no harm, no foul.
At Home Parents can try parental control and monitoring software all they like, but once a kid (or even the spouse or grandparents) gets the freedom of the smartphone with data plan, good luck trying to get them to talk during family dinner.
FCC Hits Chinese Company with Record Fine for Selling Signal Jammers
FCC Hits Chinese Company with Record Fine for Selling Signal Jammers
Just as a parent has the ability and right to cut off the Wi-Fi at home, they should have the option to cut the cellular signal if desired. Grabbing phones from hands to put them in airplane mode probably won’t work, and making the house into a Faraday cage is an extreme only the tin-foil hat crowd should try. But an in-home cell jammer should be an option whenever desired or necessary. (Just keep that landline, folks.)
All of these examples are predicated on other lines being available for emergencies, or at the least someone having the expectation of mobility enough to get outside the jammer’s range. For now, there’s no way that even those with the best intentions could utilize the limited tech available in a way that wouldn’t disrupt services well beyond the scope of their classroom, theater, office, or home, unfortunately. If you think there’s an illegal jammer in use around you, visit the FCC online complaint portal or call 1-888-CALL-FCC (or 1-888-225-5322).
But before you do, consider if you really were harmed, or if maybe, just maybe, that hour without the cell signal was the best hour of your day. Besides, if your signal is jammed, you probably can’t make the call anyway. ,
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