All posts tagged FCC

BART to Consider Cell Phone Shutoff Enforcement Policy Tomorrow

The first American government run transit agency to shut off public cell phone usage and receive world-wide media attention for its actions is set to vote tomorrow on a long term enforcement policy that will govern how it can and cannot control cell and internet data mobile traffic.On August 11 BART shut off mobile phone in a number of Downtown San Francisco terminals after  a protest started over the death of a man shot by BART police officers. On October 27th the BART Board of Directors voted to come up with a long term(maft cell phone interruption policy. (video: Microsoft Silverlight required.)


BART states that it’s motivation is “providing safe, efficient and reliable public transit services. BART adds in the draft policy that it is fully committed to its long standing to allowing the exercise of First Amendment rights of  expression “in the areas where it can be done safely and without interference of the District’s primary mission.” In accordance with these principles, BART’s document says, “it shall be the policy of the (BART) district that the district may implement a temporary interruption of  operation of the System’s Cellular equipment only when it determines that there is strong evidence of imminent unlawful activity that threatens the safety of District passengers, employees and other members of the public, the destruction of District property or the substantial disruption of  public transit services.”

I’m not a lawyer and will not attempt to suggest all of  the legal areas potentially raised by such a policy if it were adopted. A couple of interesting things include how the language excludes a definition of who will have the authority to make these decisions, that the phrasing concerning what would amount to a disruption may be intentionally vague, and it is curious why BART did not include data networks also accessible from it’s transit system, such as the   internet, email, audio and video as well as voice over IP.


Several non-profit media, technology, telecommunications advocacy and public interest groups have joined in filing an Emergency Petition before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue a Declaratory Ruling in this case.

Public Knowledge, Broadband Institute of California, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Media Justice, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Access Project, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative are all joining together suggesting that no local government including San Francisco  has the authority to suspend cell phone service and that BART may have violated the Communications Act of 1934 in its actions of August 11th.

Those interested in protecting freedom of speech everywhere will be watching to see how BART acts, and what, if anything the FCC will do in this matter. There may be legislative and court relief sought. This is not happening in Egypt, Iran or Libya. This is San Francisco, California, America.


BART Board Room
Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall
3rd Floor
344 20th Street
Oakland, CA

The meeting is open to the public.

Response from FCC to group letter complaining about BART disruption of mobile phone and Internet service

Dear Consumer:

This is in response to your recent e-mail to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  Your e-mail relates to the August 11, 2011 incident in which the Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority (BART) reportedly shut off mobile Internet and cell phone service inside segments of the BART transit system in anticipation of an expected protest.

FCC staff is looking into the facts of what happened and whether BART’s actions were consistent with the federal Communications Act.  In reviewing this situation, the FCC is mindful of both the critical public safety role of local agencies, and the importance of uninterrupted public access to wireless communications for safety, free expression, and other purposes.

We thank you for bringing this matter to our attention  If you have further questions, please feel free to visit the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau website, at, or call us at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice; 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY.

——-  Original Message  ——- wrote:

Aug 16, 2011

Chairman Julius Genachowski

Dear Chairman Genachowski,

When the BART Police suspended cell phone service before a planned
protest against BART police, it was the first known time in United
States history that a major government public transportation agency had
taken such a step. I find this action alarming and do not want it to
set a precedent. I ask you to nip such tactics in the bud and take a
stand against cell phone and internet censorship.

All over the world, people are using mobile devices to protest
oppressive regimes, and governments are shutting down cell phone towers
and the Internet to stop them. It’s outrageous that such a thing could
happen in the United States, but that is what BART has done. And
despite local, national and international outrage, BART officials
haven’t gotten the message yet. Agency spokesman Linton Johnson said
that the agency may cut cell phone service again in the future,
explaining that riders “don’t have the right to free speech inside
the fare gates.”

I urge you to condemn heavy-handed tactics that violate free speech
rights in an attempt to silence dissent. The FCC should conduct a full
and transparent review of the facts and circumstances of this incident
and hold those responsible to account so that such censorship does not
become accepted practice among government agencies seeking to quell