SEFFNER, Fla. ( - If your cell phone kept dropping calls along Interstate 4 last summer, it could have been because of Jason R. Humphreys.

Federal authorities say Humphreys was operating a cellular jamming device during his daily commute between Seffner and Tampa. Humphreys, 60, told investigators he was using the jammer to keep people from talking on a cell phone while driving.

The Federal Communications Commission was not amused. The agency is proposing a fine of $48,000 against Humphreys.

Federal law prohibits the importing, marketing, sale, possession or use of such wireless signal jamming devices, in part because of the public safety issue of people needing to make 911 calls. Unlike radar detectors that are strictly passive, these jammers can proactively block cell phones, Wi-Fi, GPS, aircraft communications and even two-way radios used by law enforcement and emergency personnel.

Though illegal in almost every case, such jammers are gaining popularity, federal authorities said, and federal agents often pursue people looking to sell them on Craigslist.

The case along I-4 started on April 29, 2013, when the cellular company Metro PCS contacted the Federal Communications Commission because a transmission tower along I-4 would suffer in the morning and evening.

A week later, agents from the FCC’s enforcement division in Tampa staked out the freeway on May 7, 8, and 9 and pinpointed a “strong wideband emission” in the cell phone wireless range “emanating from a blue Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle,” with Florida license plates, according to a complaint issued by the FCC on Tuesday.

Another clue: When Hillsborough County Sheriffs deputies stopped the SUV, their own two-way radios were jammed.

The FCC’s complaint says Humphreys admitted he owned the jamming gadget and said he had used it for the past 16 to 24 months “to keep people from talking on their cell phones while driving.”

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