Texas prison officials have canceled a much-ballyhooed test of electronic jamming technology designed to curb an epidemic of smuggled cell phones in prisons, reports the Austin American-Statesman. A recent test in South Carolina was successful in blocking cell calls inside a prison – without interfering with nearby cell traffic. Under a Depression-era federal law, it is illegal to jam radio transmissions, including cellular signals. Scheduled Florida-based vendor CellAntenna, the test was to have been held Thursday at the state jail in Austin. The cancellation drew criticism that Texas officials had buckled to pressure from phone companies who oppose the jamming devices. State officials denied that.
“We have come to the conclusion that proceeding with this presentation would violate federal law, and we are not willing to violate the law in the pursuit of protecting it,” said Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Howard Melamed, CellAntenna’s CEO, said Thursday’s demonstration is permitted under federal law because the device is a prototype. “We can’t sell this technology in the United States, but we can demonstrate it,” he said. Melamed said a Jan. 8 demonstration of the device is scheduled in the District of Columbia. Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, New Jersey, and other states have requested demos.