Most Read: Business

DJIA
0.26%
S&P 500
-0.07%
NASDAQ
-1.07%
 Last Update: 09:12 PM 09/15/2014

World Markets from      

 

Other Market Data from      

 

Key Rates from      

 

Blog Contributors

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee covers technology policy, including copyright and patent law, telecom regulation, privacy, and free speech. He also writes about the economics of technology. He has previously written for Ars Technica and Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter or send him email.

Brian Fung

Brian Fung

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on electronic privacy, national security, digital politics and the Internet that binds it all together. He was previously the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic. His writing has also appeared in Foreign Policy, Talking Points Memo, the American Prospect and Nonprofit Quarterly. Follow Brian on Google+ .

Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

Post Tech
About / Where's Post I.T.?   |    Twitter  |   On Facebook  |  RSS RSS Feed  |  E-Mail Cecilia
Posted at 03:43 PM ET, 08/29/2011

San Francisco’s BART cellphone shutdown prompts complaint to FCC

Several public interest groups on Monday asked the Federal Communications Commission to declare that San Francisco transportation officials broke telecom laws by halting cellphone service ahead of planned demonstrations earlier this month.

Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation said Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) didn’t have the authority to shut down cell service in some stations to deter organizers of a planned Aug. 11 protest.

They focused their petition on alleged violations of communications law.

FCC spokesman Neil Grace said that the agency received the petition and that officials are “reviewing the petition and are continuing our assessment to collect information about BART’s actions and the important issues those actions raised.”

The public interest groups said BART’s actions set a dangerous example.

“The recent statements by BART directors, as well as the possibility that other local jurisdictions may act to interfere with [mobile phone networks] in similar situations, demonstrate that the Commission must not wait on the outcome of its investigation into this specific incident to clarify the law generally,” the public interest groups said.

BART’s decision has also invited criticism over free speech rights and prompted an attack by the hacker group Anonymous. BART has been compared to the governments of China and Egypt, which have clamped down on information to disrupt civil protests.

BART officials defended their decision to stop cell service at some stations on Aug. 11, saying the temporary shutdown was legal and was intended to keep passengers safe. The service shutdown was meant to prevent demonstrators from organizing outside of designated areas, BART said.

But public interest groups said BART didn’t have the legal authority to shut down cell service.

BART spokesman Jim Allison said that on Aug. 12, the FCC asked the San Francisco area transportation authority for information related to its cell service shutdown. He defended its actions as “completely legal” and said BART may consider similar action with future protests. He said the BART board is preparing a policy on communications.

Protests this summer were set off by a fatal police shooting at a BART station. Allison said that protesters were calling for demonstrations on platforms and that one organizer got on top of a train.

“This is very dangerous,” Allison said. “If there are similar situations in which there are clear indications that there is imminent lawless activity coordinated by cellphone users, this would remain an option.”

Related:

Dozens arrested in Bart protest

By  |  03:43 PM ET, 08/29/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company