The jammer works in two ways

SPOKANE, Washington – Frustrated by the ongoing distraction from cell phone texting and calls, a school in Spokane has invested in a device to block the phones from work.

Mt. Spokane spent less than $ 100 to buy a cell phone jammer online, and was just completing a three-day trial aimed at thwarting students who write texts during class.

“We just thought it was something we wanted to evaluate,” said director John Hook.

But class time is not one of them. Student guidelines stipulate that students can have cell phones if they are turned off and kept out of sight during class; but not everyone obeyed.

“Sometimes I go to a restaurant and I want to enjoy a meal or coffee and read quietly, and someone really starts talking loudly on their cell phone. It’s disgusting,” said Oakland, California, Resident Charles Crowder.

With more than 100 million mobile phones worldwide, the problem is likely to get worse. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 84 percent of US citizens will have a mobile phone in five years.

But a backlash against cellular harassment has already started. Signs are increasingly being posted in restaurants in the United States asking guests to turn off their phones. In Maine’s Baxter State Park, cell phones are illegal except in emergencies. The resistance has even reached the White House: President Bush has reportedly banned cell phones from staff meetings.

Indeed, several governments around the world are considering introducing labels for mobile gabbers in public spaces by legalizing technology that blocks cellular signals.

Cell phone jammers have been around since 1998. The devices, which cost around $ 1,000, can block signals in a room the size of a movie theater. The jammer emits a low-current, coded radio signal or a modulated radio wave.

Jammers work in two ways. Some devices put their signal on the same frequency as pagers and cell phones, which interrupts communication between the handsets and base stations. Others work as electronic filters that make cell phones believe that no frequencies are available to make or receive calls. The device manufacturers say that the block only affects the designated area (most radii are a few dozen to a few hundred feet) and only works with cellular transmissions.

Sounds like the perfect solution for annoying phones, doesn’t it? Aside from Israel and Japan, cell phone jammers are illegal in most industrialized countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland and Australia.

However, the tide can change. Last spring, both Hong Kong and Canada announced that they would consider using portable jammers outdoors to curb poor phone behavior in public. At the same time, the leaders of the Indian Parliament announced that they had already installed the equipment to avoid interruptions during the sessions.