October 18, 2004

Can't Be Done

The Speculist is speculating about jamming cellular signals inside movie theaters so as to relieve people of hearing them ring. He doesn't think it will happen because of First Amendment issues of suppression of speech. It will never get that far. The only way Uncle Whiskers would ever license the necessery broad-spectrum transmitter is if the theater is built as a Faraday cage. In new construction a metal mesh, sized to attenuate the 1.9 gHz U.S. cellular bands, could be embedded in the walls and grounded. This would prevent the jamming signal from escaping the building and generating daily Federal fines. It would also eliminate the need for such jamming by eliminating in-building coverage. From what I've seen test driving customer care issues, aluminum siding is enough to produce in-building coverage complaints.


Professor Bainbridge writes about a related issue. He sees jammers as a free-market solution, and suppression of cellular nuisance as a property right issue for those who don't want it on their premises. The problem with this is that such rights are superceded under Federal law (since 1934) by broadcasters' right to their allocated portion of the spectrum. An FCC license constitutes exclusive ownership (or maybe leasehold - IANAL) of the channel and jamming constitutes trespass.

There are possible market solutions. If cellular nuisance were treated as nyekulturni phones with improved voicemail on which the ringer could be turned off without needing to step thru long menus would trade at a premium. It may well be possible to weave drapery fabric with metallic threads which would block or even absorb cellular frequency RF energy. If so, the market will no doubt reward the developer.

Posted by triticale at October 18, 2004 07:24 AM

The sandstone-clad courthouse in San Antonio is a virtually 100% effective cell-signal blocker. I suspect the quartz-like content of the stone acts as a scattering field. If so, you could make a crystalline-covered wallpaper-type product that would be even more effective. No electrical jamming signals required. And since a movie theatre has no windows, it would be easy to get nearly full coverage.

Posted by: George Gaskell at October 20, 2004 12:23 PM
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