Patron of Betsy's Diner Claims Restaurant Illegally Blocked His Cellphone Reception
By: Brent Runyon
A customer of Betsy’s Diner on Main Street, Falmouth, claimed the owner used an illegal cellphone jamming device to disrupt his phone call on Tuesday.
Thomas M. Pucci said he went to the restaurant Tuesday afternoon and answered a phone call as he approached the building. Mr. Pucci said as he got closer to the building the call dropped. After he went inside the restaurant he noticed that his phone still had no service.
“I look up on the shelf and there’s a cellphone jammer,” Mr. Pucci said. He works as the manager of operations and technical services for the Information Technology Department for the Town of Falmouth and is familiar with the technology.
Reached by phone on Wednesday, owner David Chandler said he would not comment about cellphone jammers or the incident with Mr. Pucci.
“I do have a sign that says, ‘Please no cellphone use,’ ” he said. “I believe it’s rude, when you’re dining, to talk on a cellphone.”
Cellphone jammers work by broadcasting radio waves on the same frequencies that cellphones use. It is illegal to use or sell them, according to advisories by the Federal Communications Commission.
“We caution consumers that it is against the law to use a cell or GPS jammer or any other type of device that blocks, jams, or interferes with authorized communications, as well as to import, advertise, sell, or ship such a device. The FCC Enforcement Bureau has a zero tolerance policy in this area and will take aggressive action against violators,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison said in a press release.
Violations can lead to substantial penalties, up to $112,500 for any single act, but in the past the FCC has generally issued warnings to one-time violators. There has never been an enforcement action in Massachusetts related to cellphone jammers, according to the FCC website.
The FCC issued a new consumer advisory about cellphone jammers on Tuesday, the same day as the incident at Betsy’s Diner. There has been an increase in reports about consumers using cellphone jammers to create a quiet zone on buses and trains in the past few days, according to the release.
Jammers are illegal because they disrupt radio communications, and can interfere with public safety communications.
Falmouth Fire Rescue Chief Mark D. Sullivan said there have been no problems with cellphone jammers in Falmouth that he is aware of.
Falmouth Public Schools Superintendent Marc P. Dupuis said the schools do not use cellphone jammers. There is very poor cellphone service in Falmouth High School, but that is because of the design of the building, he said.