News reports about a passenger using a hand-held device to block cell phones on a bus captured the public’s imagination. The story became so popular on social media, in fact, that the Federal Communications Commission has issued a consumer alert that using or importing jammers is illegal.

Some celebrated the bus rider’s action as a much-needed response to people who carry on loud conversations in public, rudely ignoring how annoying it is to everyone in earshot. Others agreed with federal authorities who contend it is a safety risk to use a cell phone jammer.

It all started when NBC 10 in Philadephia reported on a man named Eric who it spotted using a jammer when other passengers got too loud for him to tolerate.

Now P. Michele Ellison, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, has publicly warned that jammers can prevent 9-1-1 and other emergency phone calls from getting through, and can interfere with police and other law enforcement communications.

“Jamming devices create serious safety risks,” she said. “In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be intensifying our efforts through partnerships with law enforcement agencies to crack down on those who continue to violate the law. Through education, outreach, and aggressive enforcement, we’re tackling this problem head on.”

It’s not just illegal to use jammers anywhere in the U.S., even on private property. It’s also illegal to advertise them, sell them, import them, or even to ship them from one place to another inside of the U.S. Penalties can include a fine of up to $112,500 for any single act, seizure of the jammer(s), and criminal sanctions including imprisonment.

Related links:

FCC Enforcement Advisory No. 2012-02 –

NBC 10 Philadelphia – Rider Jams Cell Phones on SEPTA Buses

Forbes – Electronic Vigilante Jamming Cell Phones on Buses

Orlando Sentinel – Cellphone Jammer Man: America’s newest hero? Or villain?

Photo by Flickr user ewige/Michael Derr, used under Creative Commons license



  1. I fully support Eric from Philadelphia because there are not as many people as him (or at least we don’t know about them for now) who can fight for their privacy rights in such open and brave way. Look and learn my dear friends!