FCC Officers Can Search Practically Any Household

By May 22, 2009
Keywords : Smart city

Earlier this month attention was drawn to some disturbing rules regarding a particular agency's right to enter homes without a warrant. The presence of any device transmitting radio frequency gives the Federal Communications Commission the right to inspect it. This means that any home where a wireless router or cell phone, among many other devices, is vulnerable to interference inspection in the same way as are television and radio stations, as well as to give cease-and-desist notices to pirate stations. FCC spokesperson David Fiske confirmed that his organization has the right to see anything using RF energy, including Wi-Fi routers that use unlicensed spectrum, in an article from Wired on Thursday. The source of this search power is derived from the Communications Act of 1934, and has not yet been constitutionally verified by the courts.

Since the passing of the Act, the FCC has had little to do in the daily lives of the average American. But now, with a signal-broadcasting device in many homes, and that percentage growing every day, just such a judicial verification is pressing.

Law experts questioned the legality of such power in the same article, referencing the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure by Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Lee Tien. Constitutional law expert and George Washington University professor Orin Kerr cites a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that says the goverment cannot make "warrantless entries into homes for administrative inspections."

Not only does this ability seem unreasonable and outdated, the educated responses directly point to unconstitutional ruling being inevitable. Actions undertaken by the FCC often dance on the 'Net Neutrality line. While further actions are in motion for a national free broadband plan, for example, they were on hold due to last summer's White Spaces debate. The agency authorized unlicensed "TV Band Devices" in white spaces in November, as CircleID wrote yesterday.

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