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Communications Cellphones United States Wireless Networking

Got a Cell Phone Booster? FCC Says You Have To Turn It Off 245

Posted by timothy
from the commons-problem dept.
First time accepted submitter Dngrsone writes "Some two million people have bought cell-phone wireless signal boosters and have been using them to get better communication between their phones and distant cell towers. But now, the FCC says they all have to turn their boosters off and ask permission from their providers, and register their devices with those providers, before they can turn them back on."
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Got a Cell Phone Booster? FCC Says You Have To Turn It Off

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  • by Controlio (78666) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:37AM (#42967401)

    Easily. A directional antenna and a spectrum analyzer. They do it. http://tech.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3482363&cid=42967297 [slashdot.org]

    They just don't care if you're not interfering with their regular service operations.

  • by Controlio (78666) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:40AM (#42967441)

    You could always install a passive repeater - two antennas and a wire connecting them. They're not illegal, and they pass signal out of faraday cages effectively. Make the outside antenna a directional one and point it in the general direction of your nearest tower, and you shouldn't have any issues.

  • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:40AM (#42967447)
    I doubt it. The article, and the summary in particular is spreading quote a bit of fud. Specifically, the FCC does not say you have to turn anything off. Most of the questions people are posting about research is answered on the document linked right on the homepage of fcc.gov. Here, since most seem to lazy: https://www.fcc.gov/ [fcc.gov] or specifically: https://www.fcc.gov/document/use-and-design-signal-boosters-report-and-order [fcc.gov] Here's an important excerpt:

    In order to use a Consumer Signal Booster, a consumer must:
    Have some form of consent from his/her wireless provider to operate the Consumer
    Signal Booster. We note that Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and the RTG
    member companies have made voluntary commitments to consent to all Consumer Signal
    Boosters that meet the Network Protection Standard.42 Therefore, we expect that
    subscribers of these companies will not need to specifically seek consent from these
    providers, or other providers who make similar “blanket” consent commitments, for
    Consumer Signal Boosters that meet the Network Protection Standard.

    So, consent is needed, and most providers have already given blanket consent.

    Maybe the boys over at ARS didn't bother to read anything other than the limited FAQ, either? Or more likely they did like any "news" organization and selectively picked out the pieces that would get them the most hits on their website regardless of how they were bending the truth.

  • by Quantos (1327889) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:44AM (#42967505)
    They aren't banning it. Learn to read - and comprehend what you are reading.
  • Booster Trouble... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:50AM (#42967565)

    So about five years ago everyone in the office was complaining about how they had "No Service" on their cell phones... so I went ahead and installed a "booster"-- an outdoor antenna with amp connected to an indoor antenna.

    A few months later, some gentlemen from "AT&T Security" showed up at my office and told me they had been trying to diagnose problems with their nearby tower for several months... until they spotted the outdoor antenna on my building, and aimed some sort of gadget at it and discovered it to be a booster. They said the problem was that their antenna system was seeing the increased signal strength of my booster antenna as if their system was receiving strong signals from cell phones in the neighborhood, and their system was automatically lowering its output signal strength, causing users in the area to have dropped calls and poor connections...

    They told me that legally they, as a carrier, had priority on the cell spectrum and I had no choice but to turn off or be fined. So if someone's booster is interfering with public cell use, they WILL hunt you down and pry it from your cold, dead hands.

  • Re:makes some sense (Score:4, Informative)

    by arielCo (995647) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:58AM (#42967683)

    The second. It's a "deal with it" rule; otherwise line filters, ferrite chokes, shielding and whatnot would make your device non-compliant.

  • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:59AM (#42967699)

    So, consent is needed, and most providers have already given blanket consent.

    Citation needed.

    Are you trolling? I did post the citation. Here it is again: https://www.fcc.gov/document/use-and-design-signal-boosters-report-and-order [fcc.gov]

  • Re:makes some sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by wolrahnaes (632574) <[ofni.wolrahnaes] [ta] [naes]> on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:54PM (#42968595) Homepage Journal

    Ham operator and armchair lawyer here.

    Part 15.5 basically says that unlicensed radio operation is a best-effort thing. If the spectrum you want to use is already taken up to a point that it makes it unusable for you, too bad, you have no right to complain. Where allowed, unlicensed operation is the lowest possible priority. A licensed user can shut you down if you interfere with them, but if someone moves in next door to you with an old cordless phone or crappy microwave which knocks out your WiFi when in use you just have to deal with it.

    In general the FCC's priority goes like this:

    1. Military
    2. Licensed Government
    3. Licensed Commercial
    4. Licensed Amateur
    0. Unlicensed

    The military pretty much gets what they want, then below that if there's a conflict between licensed parties where both have privileges on a band it tends to go in the order listed. Unlicensed users are then left to fight amongst themselves over the scraps.

  • Re:makes some sense (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mattcelt (454751) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @03:06PM (#42970545)

    The FCC FAQ mentions only that if you are told by a wireless carrier or the FCC that your device is interfering with a mobile network, you must turn it off. It says nothing about doing so preemptively.

  • NTIA (Score:4, Informative)

    by dtmos (447842) * on Thursday February 21, 2013 @03:36PM (#42970935)

    Actually, the military and licensed government spectrum is controlled by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration [doc.gov]. It informs the FCC what frequencies will be used by federal users. The FCC only regulates use of the spectrum by non-federal users.

    Both must coordinate with each other, of course, and international bodies like the International Telecommunications Union [wikipedia.org].

  • by BlueStrat (756137) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @04:20PM (#42971509)

    Do you have any kind of reference for 100 kW boosted mobile CB radios? That is a lot of power. It's hard for me to picture how you could get that much power from even a very large 12v battery and/or the alternator. Even 20 kW seems pretty amazing for a mobile transmitter.

    I used to do CB radio electronics work back in the day. The biggest mobile amplifier I ever saw was 2KW. That required the addition of another alternator & battery to supply enough current. Most commonly-used solid-state mobile CB amplifiers are/were anywhere from 50W to 500W.

    For 10-20KW or more, you'd almost have to have an auxiliary engine, battery, & alternator (and some extremely-heavy wiring) to supply the extremely high current levels needed for those kinds of power levels.


  • by jjhall (555562) <slashdot@@@mail4geeks...com> on Thursday February 21, 2013 @05:40PM (#42972525) Homepage

    Actually... Yes. All you have to do is look at the webpage for the FCC's Enforcement Bureau.

    http://transition.fcc.gov/eb/ [fcc.gov]

    Just the headlines near the bottom of the page show $20K fines for operating without the appropriate license, interfering with licensed users, etc. If you browse around a bit you'll see some fairly recent enforcement of CB operators with illegal setups, primarily amplifiers, but some are also related to out-of-band operation.

    I don't think the FCC really has time or resources any more to go randomly look for violations, but they will react when they receive complaints of interference. They also don't usually accept "But I didn't know" as an excuse.

    It can be rather interesting reading through the enforcement actions, especially since some contain responses from the accused, and the subsequent FCC responses.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton