Pai Calls on Carriers to Help Block Illegal Prison Cell Phone Signals

UPDATE FCC Chairman Ajit Pai challenged wireless carriers to get involved in the effort to prevent contraband cell phones from getting to prisoners. Pai is convening a meeting February 7 at the Commission to discuss technological solutions. The Chairman asked carries to join him, local, state and federal prison officials to work on the problem, in an Op-Ed penned for the Post and Courier.

In fact, Pai sees carriers as the key to solving the problem of tens of thousands of illegal cell phones smuggled into prisons each year; devices used to commit crimes from behind bars. “They’re flown into prisons by drones, hidden in heads of lettuce, and welded into HVAC equipment,” states Pai.

Given their expertise and resources, Pai believes carriers can partner with correctional authorities to help determine the best, most cost-effective technological solutions to limit contraband use in prisons.

“They can work to block these devices from their networks. They can conduct tests in appropriate locations to see whether cellular signals can be directed away from prisons at reasonable cost without loss of service to surrounding communities,” writes Pai. Finally, carriers “can also explore how their own networks can potentially be used to help law enforcement identify contraband devices.”

Officials in January conducted cell phone jamming technology in a federal prison in western Maryland. Previously, the problem has been lack of control over the signal coverage area; the issue is, how to jam the illegal cell phone signals inside the prison but not interfere with legitimate cell signals just outside the prison walls, such as those from first responders. Proponents of the latest tests say the technology has advanced and the range is now more predictable.

February 6, 2018

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