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Silence in church

Portable phones are wonderful things, but not, it is widely agreed, wholly wonderful.

Have you ever been at something like a church service or a classical music concert, and found your attention diverted by portable phones ringing?

Help is at hand.

MONTERREY, Mexico – It was the reporters who noticed first. Unable to call their editors while covering the weddings of the rich and famous, they asked the priest why their cell phones never worked at Sacred Heart. His reply: Israeli counterintelligence.

In four Monterrey churches, Israeli-made cell phone jammers the size of paperbacks have been tucked unobtrusively among paintings of the Madonna and statues of the saints.

The jarring polychromatic din of ringing cell phones is increasingly being thwarted – from religious sanctuaries to India’s parliament to Tokyo theaters and commuter trains – by devices originally developed to help security forces avert eavesdropping and thwart phone-triggered bombings.

Jamming other people’s portable phones is one of many practices where you need strong property rights in place to enable disputes about the rights and wrongs of it to be easily decided. But even in an age of weakened property rights, this device will surely prove to be a great boon in protecting the rest of us from compulsive communicators and their irritating noises.

Human problems are hard to fix. So instead, fix the machines they are using to cause the problem.

16 comments to Silence in church

  • Now for the bad news: 3G phones (UMTS, CDMA2K) are an entirely different bag and are extremely difficult to jam.

  • Under U.S. law, the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, jamming cellular communication is a violation of property rights, in that the providers have a leasehold on the channels and anyone else broadcasting on them is commiting trespass. I blogged about this recently and suggested a couple of possible solutions at http://triticale.mu.nu/archives/050659.php

  • zmollusc

    I think that the use of jammers is illegal in the UK, if you want to stop halfwits who haven’t the decency to turn off their cellphones then a good faraday cage is probably the only solution.

  • Andrew Robb

    I never knew there were property rights associated with an actual portion of the EM spectrum. The way they are treated seems a little backwards though. You’d think that if you wished to block the use of cell phones in a peice of physical property to which you had the rights that it would be the cell phone user who commited trespass. A cell phone user could simply walk out side to make a call. While those in the curch or theater would have poor renditions of “Funky Town”, “La Cucarracha”(sp?) or college fight songs forced upon them.

    I owned a cell phone for years and found never recieved a call that could not have waited an hour or two. Most often, when someone called to in form me of an emergency, there was nothing I could do about it anyway. Constant communication is a childish need. I got rid of the damned phone, and the bill, as soon as my job no longer required me to carry it.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    It may be pertinent to note that the technology was developed by governments for purposes of espionage/intel. Not to say that private concerns could not have done it, but an interesting point still.

    The state is not our friend, but some of the stuff it makes is sure nifty.


  • Dale Amon

    The dark side of it… if you are one who travels a lot and has to communicate… is the hotels. Hotels make a bloody fortune off the room phones. They would love to jam the cell phones so you would have to use their system.

    It is private property, so they of course should be able to. It then becomes a trade off between whether customer complaints or the lucre from their 50% cut of the phone concession is of more value to them.

  • Ken

    Wouldn’t it be better to just boot the offender off your property.

    It would certainly encourage behavior that better meets the needs of all parties involved, to wit, keeping the phone on “vibrate” when in an area that cell-phone ringing is unwelcome.

  • “It would certainly encourage behavior that better meets the needs of all parties involved, to wit, keeping the phone on “vibrate” when in an area that cell-phone ringing is unwelcome”

    Which is to say: EVERYWHERE there is someone else.

  • Rob Read

    Maybe they need to introduce a Friendly “quiet” signal, not a jammer, so that when detected it switches to a non audible ring? Places such as conference centres, meeting rooms etc, would have these very small transmitters that send the quiet signal.

    This would be an excellent addition to future mobile phone standards.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Rob-An automatic ‘silent’ mode? That’s a great idea! Has anybody done any possible implementation of this?


  • Dale,

    Couldn’t people just go outside the hotel to make calls?

  • Daveon

    Automated Silent is a cool idea but implementing it would mean openning chunks of the phone control code to outside control in a way the network operators would dislike. Personally I keep my phone on silent pretty much all the time.

    Part of this is a transition thing, we’ve only had the ubitutous mobile in the UK for 5 years or so, and in the US even shorter a time period. It will take longer than that to “evolve” some protocols for dealing with them. I travel a lot and it’s a godsend, especially when dealing with hotels.

  • Peter

    At the end of the article, you say
    “Human problems are hard to fix. So instead, fix the machines they are using to cause the problem.”

    But doesn’t this sound like an argument for gun control?

  • limberwulf

    ouch, good point Peter. I dont like the verbage of the argument myself. On the other hand, I have no problem with a private company installing metal detectors and restricting what a visitor may bring into an area. I suppose a jammer is not much different. If communication via cell phone is banned as a condition of being allowed onto someone’s property, then a jammer would seem a practical and non-invasive means of enforcing said ban.

  • I love the idea of jammers, right up till I think about surgeons on call. It is in all our interests that some people always get their signal.