Congressman Asks FCC’s Help in Jamming Prison Cellphones

The problem of contraband cellphones has become a huge problem in U.S. prisons. U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina says the FCC could solve it by allowing state and local lockups to use signal-jamming technology.

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) is asking the nation’s airwaves regulator for help in blocking cellphone signals in prisons, reports the South Carolina Radio Network. Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday asking that the agency reverse its position banning the use of jamming technologies by state and local prisons. South Carolina prisons director Bryan Stirling has lobbied the FCC to allow use of the technology to stop contraband cellphones from operating inside correctional facilities, an increasing problem at prisons across the country.

“You could make a real difference here,” Sanford said in his letter to Pai. “In fact, there are very few things in domestic public policy that entail life and death itself. This issue does, and your actions here could literally save lives and make a profound difference.” Under the Obama administration, the FCC argued that a 1934 law limits authorization to jam signals to the federal government alone. Telecommunications companies say they’re worried the jamming could interfere with emergency signals and the cellphones of those living near prisons. Pai has expressed sympathy for the state’s situation but says any change must be authorized by Congress. Sanford claims the agency gave in to pressure from the cellphone industry.