Space Ramblings

What’s Wrong with a Little Private Space?

In another case of putting corporate privileges above the rights of private property and business owners, the New York Times has an article on cell phone jammers and the pursuit of their users by the government and cell phone companies.

Now as far as the FCC is concerned all cell phone jammers is illegal, regardless of whether it’s done on private property or in a public space.

Andrew reached into his shirt pocket and pushed a button on a black device the size of a cigarette pack. It sent out a powerful radio signal that cut off the chatterer’s cellphone transmission — and any others in a 30-foot radius.

“She kept talking into her phone for about 30 seconds before she realized there was no one listening on the other end,” he said. His reaction when he first discovered he could wield such power? “Oh, holy moly! Deliverance.”

Now this is credibly illegal, because as annoying as a cell phone chatterer may be on the subway, you are entering a public space, one which you have no assertive rights or control over. In some happy imaginary world, noisy cell phone chatterers would face fines, in the real world though, it’s game up. But then there’s the following cases and it’s unclear why they’re illegal… beyond corporate privilege.

Investigators from the F.C.C. and Verizon Wireless visited an upscale restaurant in Maryland over the last year, the restaurant owner said. The owner, who declined to be named, said he bought a powerful jammer for $1,000 because he was tired of his employees focusing on their phones rather than customers.

“I told them: put away your phones, put away your phones, put away your phones,” he said. They ignored him.

The owner said the F.C.C. investigator hung around for a week, using special equipment designed to detect jammers. But the owner had turned his off.

The Verizon investigator was similarly unsuccessful. “He went to everyone in town and gave them his number and said if they were having trouble, they should call him right away,” the owner said. He said he has since stopped using the jammer.

Now why can’t a restaurant owner choose to create private space within his own property by preventing cell phones from working within only his private property? It’s corporatism for corporate will that every place should have cell phone coverage to trump individual property rights. If a restaurant decides to bar smoking or cell phone use it should be able to do so and technologically enforce that as well.

Gary, a therapist in Ohio who also declined to give his last name, citing the illegality of the devices, says jamming is necessary to do his job effectively. He runs group therapy sessions for sufferers of eating disorders. In one session, a woman’s confession was rudely interrupted.

“She was talking about sexual abuse,” Gary said. “Someone’s cellphone went off and they carried on a conversation.”

“There’s no etiquette,” he said. “It’s a pandemic.”

Gary said phone calls interrupted therapy all the time, despite a no-phones policy. Four months ago, he paid $200 for a jammer, which he placed surreptitiously on one side of the room. He tells patients that if they are expecting an emergency call, they should give out the front desk’s number. He has not told them about the jammer.

Now why can’t a therapist control the therapy environment using a cell phone jammer? Again we’re talking about private property and property should be sacrosanct. Instead Verizon’s obnoxious little dude has more rights over your property than you do.

“It’s counterintuitive that when the demand is clear and strong from wireless consumers for improved cell coverage, that these kinds of devices are finding a market,” said Jeffrey Nelson, a Verizon spokesman.

No Jeffrey it’s not. It’s actually quite intuitive. Your wireless consumers are annoying everyone else and there’s a backlash causing these kinds of decides to find a market. Some people don’t mind cell phones but they do mind their inappropriate use and want to legally create some private space on private property. Unfortunately Verizon trumps civil rights yet again.

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