Groups ask FCC to ban cell-phone shutdowns

Several public interest groups filed an emergency petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to rule that Bay Area Rapid Transit (CA) did not have the right to shut off wireless communications earlier this month. The Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and several other organizations claim that BART’s August 11 shutdown of wireless service endangered public safety and infringed on citizen rights. According to the petition:

Unilateral action by law enforcement, however well intentioned, risks depriving the public of vital emergency communications at the worst possible moment. Because any impairment of [Commercial Mobile Radio Service] impacts both critical issues of public safety and important principles of free expression, the Commission must act swiftly to clarify that local authorities may not turn off wireless networks before other local jurisdictions seek to replicate the actions of BART.

BART shut off cell phone service in several stations earlier this month in anticipation of a planned protest over a police shooting. Since that time, additional protests have been staged and BART-related websites have been hacked. Link to full story in Government Technology.

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