U.S. regulators are fining a Chinese electronics manufacturer almost $35 million for marketing illegal signal jamming devices to American consumers, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday.
The regulators called it the largest fine in the agency's history. They say C.T.S. Technology Co. was selling "jammers," radio frequency transmitters that block or interfere with cellphone calls, GPS systems, wireless networks and even first responder communications.
"It is a violation of federal law to market, sell, import, or use a signal jammer in the United States and its territories, except in very limited circumstances involving federal law enforcement," according to an FCC. statement.
The FCC alleges that the company marketed 285 different models of "jammers" to U.S. consumers for more than two years. The company claimed on its website that certain signal jammers were approved by the FCC, even though the devices are illegal for consumer user. Authorities said the company sold 10 signal jammers to undercover FCC employees.
"Signal jammers present a direct danger to public safety, potentially blocking the communications of first responders," said Travis LeBlanc, acting chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau.
The jammers can be used for a variety of denial of service attacks, some more sinister than others. A Philadelphia man made headlines for using a cellphone jammer on a bus to get other passengers off their phones, telling a local TV reporter, "I guess I'm taking the law into my own hands … and quite frankly, I'm proud of it."