Use of illegal device was intended to block employer’s tracking device.

Tip for today: don’t fire up your GPS jammer next to an airport. Gary P. Bojczak did, and it’s going to cost him $31,875.

Mr. Bojczak’s work entailed driving a truck – a red Ford F-150 pickup, to be precise, supplied by his employer. Also supplied by the employer was a GPS tracking device installed in the truck. Typically these report back on the employee’s route, thus discouraging unauthorized detours, and may also note the duration of lunch stops, speed limit violations, etc. Mr. Bojczak, apparently preferring to deny his employer this kind of information, purchased an illegal GPS jamming device and operated it in the truck.

Presumably Mr. Bojczak successfully prevented the tracking device from doing its job. It does not take much; GPS signals arriving at the Earth’s surface are weak, having traveled some 13,000 miles through space. Unfortunately, Mr. Bojczak also successfully jammed a GPS system being tested for aircraft operations at Newark Liberty International Airport. The FCC investigated; airport police and security personnel stopped Mr. Bojczak adjacent to the airport, where he surrendered the jammer.

The FCC found three offenses: operating without a license; use of unauthorized equipment; and interfering with authorized communications. (The operating-without-a-license item strikes us as specious, as the FCC would never have issued a license for the jammer; see our previous rant on this topic, and also this one.) The base fines for the offenses add up to $22,000. The FCC adjusted upward to $42,500, to reflect the added culpability of deliberate jamming, and then came down 25% in acknowledgement of Mr. Bojczak’s having given up the jammer without a fight.

Many GPS jammers go undetected in part because they can operate successfully at low power. But airport navigation equipment is sensitive, and the FCC enforces vigorously when public safety is at stake. If you have a jammer, our best advice is to turn it off. Especially near an airport. All of us air travelers will thank you.