Venable partner Jamie Barnett discussed the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) plans to address the use of contraband cellphones in prisons in a March 2, 2017, Communications Daily article. While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has expressed disappointment in the lack of progress on the issue, wireless industry officials have expressed concerns that focusing on the issue could open up debate on legalizing signal jammers as a possible solution.
Barnett said the issue is complicated because signal jammers create holes in providers' systems, and managed access systems are expensive. "It may be the right solution for some prisons, but the problem is that the inmates can still communicate with a cellphone even without spectrum," he said citing recorded messages or videos on phones as examples. "What we really need is technological solutions that basically render the cellphone useless," he added. "What I hope the [notice of proposed rulemaking] will do is cast a wide net, say, 'What is technologically available now? What is something that's going to work with the carriers? What is something that's not going to endanger homeland security or public safety and be affordable to the prisons and the jails?'"