Carriers on Board With Prison Cell Phone Blocking Trials

UPDATE AT&T and Verizon said they are open to trials of cell phone jamming technology following the FCC’s meeting on Wednesday about how to combat illegal cell phones in prisons. Previously, the wireless industry said the technology wasn’t accurate enough and would impact legal cell phones.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai convened the meeting of state and federal prison officials, carriers and representatives of detection and jamming technology. Pai prodded the wireless industry this week to leave the “sidelines” and get involved in a solution.

Verizon is prepared to test cell detection and jamming systems, and AT&T, too, is ready to support the corrections community technology trials, including managed access, cell detection devices and precision jammers, reported Politico

Pai said after the meeting, the goal was to bring together a diverse group to determine the most effective, affordable, and safe ways to stop the threat of contraband cell phones without causing harm to legitimate wireless users. He praised wireless carriers, saying he’s pleased “the wireless industry is committed to taking on a more meaningful role. For instance, they’ve shown a willingness to work with government officials to test possible technological solutions and to participate in a task force that will continue the conversation with aggressive but achievable deadlines.”

According to the FCC, Contraband Interdiction Systems, require Commission authorization and fall primarily into two categories: managed access and detection. A managed access system is a micro-cellular, private network that typically operates on spectrum already licensed to commercial wireless carriers and is able to determine whether a device is authorized or unauthorized by the prison, before passing a call or message on to wireless carrier networks.

Detection systems are used to detect devices within a prison by locating, tracking, and identifying radio signals originating from a device. By analyzing the data they collect, detection systems identify contraband wireless device use in prisons.  

South Carolina Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling was at the meeting. He supports the concept of micro-jamming, he told the Associated Press. Stirling called Wednesday’s gathering “very productive.” Pai said: “The bottom line is that we made some progress, but all of us have much more work to do.”

February 9, 2018   

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