The Bay Area Rapid Transit system, or BART, will reportedly come under the FCC's microscope following the block that the public transportation system put on mobile devices inside its stations. BART says it instituted the block to keep a public protest from growing out of hand. That decision spawned further protests and may have violated the law.
The U.S. Federal Communications Communication (FCC) reportedly intends to investigate the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) over the San Francisco-area public transportation system's recent shutdown of cellphone service at four stations in the face of a public protest.
BART cut cell phone services for several hours on Aug. 11 when a public demonstration began moving from station to station. The demonstrators were protesting the shooting of homeless man Charles Hill by BART police last month.
The move cut off cellphone service, including emergency calls, and outraged civil libertarians, who pointed out that it endangered public safety and stifled free speech.
It also sparked more protests, as well as an attack by hacker community Anonymous, which targeted a BART website.
It's possible that the cellular service shutdown contravened provisions of the Communications Act of 1934, which expressly prohibits local and state law enforcement agencies from jamming transmissions to thwart criminal and terrorist acts.
FCC spokesperson Neil Grace didn't respond to requests for comment by press time.
All Your Speech Are Belong to Us
BART gave different explanations as to how it shut down cellular communications.
At first, it said it had approached wireless carriers directly and asked them to turn off service, but later, BART said its staff or contractors shut down power to the nodes and alerted the cell carriers.
BART says it owns and controls the underground cellphone network, which runs from Balboa Park Station through the Transbay Tube. It indicated that it shut down the service to essentially prevent a repeat of what had happened recently in England, where mobs used mobile communications to coordinate their riots.
Further, BART claimed that the shutdown only affected its stations and that cellphone service was not disrupted outside its stations. It also stated that intercoms and courtesy phones in areas where cellular service had been shut off continued to work.
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