Canada/USA: Demand up for Cell phone jammers
Boy ,would I love to have one of these toys under my Christmas tree. Drivers on cell phones holding up traffic make me nuts.
Only cops can use them legally.
But there's a growing demand among residents south of the border for cellphone jammers - gadgets that render nearby mobile devices useless.
Overseas exporters of jammers say they are sending hundreds of them a month to the U.S. It's not known how many are being used in the Edmonton area.
"If people would use cellphones responsibly, then we wouldn't even have to talk about this," said Dr. Louis Francescutti, director of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research and the founder of the Coalition for Cellphone-Free Driving.
Francescutti is among those who complain of abuse by people making or taking calls in inappropriate circumstances.
"I can't believe they're talking about allowing cellphones on airplanes," he said. "I'd die if I had to sit beside some yak-box the whole flight."
But while Francescutti also believes it would be useful to block cellphone calls in moving vehicles so that drivers don't become distracted, he says he recognizes that jamming signals isn't the answer - since it can also interfere with emergency calls.
And it's largely for that reason that people who use cellphone jammers aren't just taking matters into their own hands but the law as well.
"Under Canadian law and regulations, the use of jammers is not permitted except in limited circumstances by some federal law-enforcement agencies who have obtained federal cabinet approval," said Caroline Grondin of the Industry Department, which regulates the Radiocommunication Act.
Department of Justice spokesman Chris Girouard says penalties for the illegal use of a jammer were just put on the books in 2005 - and carry an individual fine of $5,000. The devices work by broadcasting signals that interfere with cellphones, and a version featuring a 25-metre range is available on eBay Canada for $250.
Edmonton police Sgt. Brian Anderson explains there are times when cellphone blocking technology can be useful in police operations.
"It could be used in a high-risk incident, where we have a barricaded person or a man with a gun and we need to maintain an uninterrupted line of communication to negotiate and possibly resolve the situation," he said.
Anderson says he can imagine such technology becoming even more common as a law enforcement tool.
But it's likely to remain illegal in the private sector.
"Our response to cellphone users is to ask people to respect others and turn them off or turn them on to vibrate mode if they need to keep them on for emergency reasons," said Pat Marshall, spokesman for Cineplex Entertainment, which operates movie theatres across Canada.
Jammers are also illegal because they interfere with signals broadcast on frequencies that cellphone providers pay for. But when it comes to arguing against their use, Telus spokesman Chris Gerritsen also points to the fact that jammers aren't selective and block all the signals around them, and may interfere with emergency communications.
"If my kid was choking and I had to call 911, it would be devastating," said Gerritsen.
No one from eBay was available to explain how cellphone jammers are available for sale on their site.
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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada