Reports of citizens wielding mobile jamming devices has caught the attention of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC said in a statement that the use of jamming devices was illegal and could result in fines of up to $100,000 and that the commission would be adopting a 'zero-tolerance' policy in regards to pursuing cases of signal jamming.
The alert follows a report from Philadelphia in which a man admitted to carrying around a handheld mobile phone jammer and using the device to thwart signals and disable nearby handsets while riding the bus.
The story quickly went viral and has set off a national debate on proper mobile etiquette and the rights of users to block the calls of others. The man, who goes by the name 'Eric,' has been praised by some as a vigilante hero for his actions.
However, the FCC said that despite the rudeness of others, deliberately jamming signals poses a safety risk and would be treated by authorities as a crime.
"Unless you are an authorised federal government user, you may not operate a jammer in the US, even on private property," the commission said in its statement
"This means that it is illegal to use a jammer on [public transport] or in a residence, vehicle, school, theatre, restaurant or in any other public or private place."
The disabling of mobile networks, both by citizens and government groups, has become a subject of debate in recent months.
Authorities in California were criticised last year when they deliberately shut down mobile phone access in San Francisco's subway system in order to prevent organised protests.
A recent report in the UK warned that critical systems were being put at risk by the use of GPS jammers in vehicles.
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