Largest Fine in History Issued by the FCC

By Joe Rizzo June 19, 2014

We live in an age of so many contradictions. Everyone is obsessed with security and feeling safe, which is completely understandable given the circumstances of the past decade or two. On the other hand, we have the National Security Agency (NSA) listening in and collecting metadata on almost every phone call being made in the U.S. So you can see how all these opposing forces supposedly working together to keep us safe also make us feel threatened.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to issue what can be considered to be the largest fine in its history. The fine is against C.T.S. Technology Co., Limited, a Chinese electronics manufacturer and online retailer. C.T.S. has been around for well over 100 years, founded in 1896. The company designs and manufactures various electronic components, sensors and actuators.

However, some of the devices that they manufacture fall under the category of signal jammers. In fact, it clearly says on their website, “C.T.S Technology (C.T.S) designs and manufactures innovative solutions for the jamming of wireless communications and under vehicle search systems for the counter-terrorism, security and defense industries.”

While we do want our security agencies to be equipped with the best possible equipment for this purpose, did you know that the use of such devices by U.S. consumers is illegal under any circumstance? Sure we have all seen them used on TV shows, but it was made fairly apparent that it was an illegal activity.

According to the FCC, “Signal jamming devices or “jammers” are radio frequency transmitters that intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized communications, such as cellphone calls, GPS systems, Wi-Fi networks, and first responder communications. It is a violation of federal law to market, sell, import, or use a signal jammer in the United States and its territories, except in very limited circumstances involving federal law enforcement.”

The FCC is going after C.T.S. for allegedly marketing 285 models of signal jamming devices to U.S. consumers for more than two years. You can do the math that is a lot of jamming devices in the hands of consumers. You can imagine why the FCC wants to pursue this and in doing, applied the maximum fine allowed to each jammer model allegedly marketed by C.T.S. which means that it is planning to fine the Chinese company $34,912,500.

It is not like C.T.S. was attempting any covert activities it clearly sells the signal jammers on its website, something that the FCC was obviously very aware of. In fact, C.T.S. sold at least 10 of their high-powered signal jammers to undercover FCC personnel. Another fact that the FCC is not too pleased with is that the website claims these devices are FCC approved.

In the FCC’s notice of apparent liability claim against the Chinese company, it states;

In this landmark enforcement action, we aggressively address the illegal marketing of GPS, cell and other signal jamming devices to U.S. consumers over the Internet. Jamming devices pose tangible threats to the integrity of U.S. communications infrastructure. They can endanger life and property by preventing individuals from making 9-1-1 or other emergency calls or disrupting the basic communications essential to aviation and marine safety. We find that C.T.S. Technology Co., Limited (C.T.S. Technology), a foreign manufacturer, illegally marketed nearly 300 models of signal jamming devices to consumers in the United States over more than two years. In some cases, the devices sold by C.T.S. Technology not only jammed the communications signals advertised, but also were potentially much more harmful, blocking communications far beyond the scope of those listed in their advertisements and marketing materials. C.T.S. Technology also apparently misled consumers, falsely claiming on its websites that certain signal jammers were approved by the FCC for consumer use.

Some of the types of devices that C.T.S. sells on their website include, tactical man pack portable jammers, smaller portable jammers, UHF/VHF jammers, fixed under vehicle inspection systems, as well as mobile under vehicle inspection systems. The fact that these devices have been made available to the general public has led the FCC to fine the company in excess of $34.9 million.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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