Everyone's been there. You're sitting quietly, taking in a movie when the person behind you picks up his cell phone and makes hushed conversation during the middle of the film (how polite!). Wouldn't it be great if we could just shut off all these idiots' phones? This is a plan of action many theatre owners are now considering. But as it stands, the FCC prohibits theatres from doing this. And in many people's opinion, rightfully so. Letting theatres jam wireless signals could threaten the freedom and safety of wireless customers, effectively shutting them off from the outside world when the step into the neighborhood megaplex.


Jesse Walker of Reason makes the case for markets solving this debate. He aruges that theatre owners will have a disincentive to jam signals. This may be the case, but the threat goes beyond issues of consumer freedom. Here we have the private property rights of theatre owners butting up against the private property rights of wireless providers like Cingular, Verizon, and the like. Allowing theatre owners to jam wireless networks would benothing short of theft from wireless networks who rightfully own their piece of the spectrum.

Daniel Corbett