Lesson from BART? F.C.C. Asks for Guidance on Whether, and When, to Cut Off Cellphone Service

Photo by Steve Rhodes

Remember when BART decided to cut down cell service? The F.C.C. hasn’t forgotten either. In fact, the agency is reviewing whether or when the police or other government officials can interrupt cellphone and internet service to protect public safety, according to The New York Times. The Times cited the cellphone shutdown on BART last summer in the story.

Late Thursday, the commission requested public comment on the issue, which came to widespread attention last August, when Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco shut off cellphone service for three hours in some stations to hinder planned protests there.

The F.C.C. chairman has some strong words. From the same New York Times report:

Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, said in a statement that such a shutdown “raises serious legal and policy issues, and must meet a very high bar.”

“Our democracy, our society and our safety all require communications networks that are available and open,” he said. “The F.C.C., as the agency with oversight of our communications networks, is committed to preserving their availability and openness, and to harnessing communications technologies to protect the public.”

The F.C.C. is now seeking public comment on the issue. Among the questions for public comment is whether the F.C.C. even has authority over such shutdowns and whether it can pre-empt local, state, or federal laws that prohibit shutdowns like the one on BART.

Hat tip: reader Brady F.

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