FCC set to impose its highest fine ever

You would have thought that in its history the FCC would have dumped some heavy fines on US telcos. After all they appear, to an outsider, to be a Mexican cantina of villainy working out new ways to screw over customers without having to make much investment.

But it is shaping up that the FCC’s biggest fine is not going to be targeting one of these, but instead a Chinese importer of signal jammers.

The agency wants to fine CTS Technology US$34,912,500 for allegedly marketing 285 models of jammers over more than two years. To be fair, CTS did lie to customers and say that its jammers were approved by the FCC. These are the sorts of thing that really rattle a watchdog’s chain. Jammers are also a pain for police and emergency services.

But this proposed fine, which would be bigger than any the FCC has levied for anti-competitive behaviour, not airing children’s shows, or a wardrobe malfunction in its history. The figure was made by adding up the maximum fines for each model of jammer the company allegedly sold in the US. The agency also ordered CTS, based in Shenzhen, China, to stop marketing illegal jammers to U.S. consumers and identify the buyer of each jammer it sold in the US.

CTS has 30 days to respond to the allegations or pay the $34.9 million. In past actions against violators based overseas, the FCC has used procedures under the Hague Service Convention, a 1965 multilateral treaty so the fact that it is based in another country will not save it.

If the FCC applied the same level of zeal against things that mattered, the terrified comms companies might abandon their plans for a two tiered internet. They might also be forced to invest in fibre and stop trying to invent new charges on phone bills.

Our guess is that CTS does not have embedded former employees at the FCC which it can call on for favours, like the telcos.