FCC moves to revoke certification for illegal cell phone jammer; evidence shows company tested a different product to qualify for certification.
Cell phone jammers are illegal in the United States. Everybody knows that.
Yet a cell phone jammer has appeared for sale on the Internet carrying an FCC ID number. That is presumptive evidence the device is approved for sale. Of course, anybody can put a made-up number on a device label. This number, though, when checked in the FCC’s database, returns an apparently valid FCC certification. Lest there be any doubt, the certification document used to carry the note “RF Jammer.”
How could this happen? Why would the FCC and its Telecommunications Certification Body (TCB) – a company authorized to issue certifications on behalf of the FCC – ever okay a product the FCC has repeatedly declared to be unlawful?
Simple. The manufacturer lied.. . . or so it appears.
According to all the evidence, the device submitted for compliance testing and certification was not the cell phone jammer that subsequently appeared on the market, but an altogether different species of animal: a PC peripheral. (A peripheral either sits outside a PC and connects to the inside, like a printer, or sits inside the PC and connects to the outside, like a network card.) The test data that led to certification are not those of a cell phone jammer – there is not enough signal on cell phone frequencies – but rather show the profile expected from a digital device, like a peripheral.
There were other hints, though, that the application might something other than it seemed.
For one thing, although PC peripherals can be certified, they don’t have to be. An easier and less expensive alternate is available, and is much more often used. One would expect a certification application for a peripheral to raise an eyebrow.
For another, the block diagram submitted with the certification application originally showed a receiver, which PC peripherals neither have nor use. On an inquiry from the TCB, the manufacturer replaced the block diagram with a different one that did not have a receiver.
For another, the “product code” chosen by the manufacturer, which becomes part of the FCC ID number, was “TG-VIPJAMM.” This could have been a clue.
And finally, the compliance test report, submitted as part of the certification application, plainly identified the equipment type as “RF Jammer.” Like this:
The TCB decided this was a “misnomer,” and proceeded to grant the certification anyway.
The FCC has launched a hearing to determine whether to revoke the certification and possibly fine the manufacturer up to $112,500. So far, though, the manufacturer has ignored two letters from the FCC and one from its own test lab. We think the chances are pretty good it will ignore the hearing notice as well, and the forfeiture and revocation notices that are likely to follow.
The case reminds us how much the FCC operates on the honor system, trusting most people to tell the truth most of the time. Usually, its trust is justified, although the phone-jammer industry seems to attract more than its share of people caught lying. We chided the FCC in another jammer case for tolerating what appeared to be a direct falsehood from a distributor, and are pleased to see them now taking a more aggressive stand. Out-and-out fraud, of the sort that the evidence suggests occurred here, remains rare. We hope it stays that way, and we hope the FCC will continue to move vigorously when it happens.