The Federal Communications Commission today enacted a set of rules governing the sale and deployment of wireless signal boosters, devices consumers use to improve cell phone signals. More than 2 million of these devices are in use across the country, and until now consumers who bought them could just turn them on and let them work their magic.
Not anymore. Anyone who buys one of these devices from now on must seek the permission of carriers. Even the 2 million devices already in use must be turned off immediately unless their owners register them. The FCC states in an FAQ:
Did the FCC recently adopt new rules for signal boosters?
Yes. The FCC recently adopted new rules to improve signal booster design so these devices won’t cause interference to wireless networks. The FCC also adopted new rules about what cell phone users need to do before using a signal booster.
I already have a signal booster; do I need to do anything under the new rules?
Yes. Under the FCC’s new rules, you (1) need your wireless provider’s permission to use the booster, and (2) must register the booster with your wireless provider. Absent your provider’s permission, you may not continue using your booster.
For practical purposes, there is a good chance you could keep using that device without getting any threatening legal letters. But technically, the FCC could issue fines to customers who fail to comply, Public Knowledge Legal Director Harold Feld told Ars. There’s no word yet on what will happen to consumers who fail to register or whether carriers would actively seek them out.
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