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Free-Speech Advocates Push for FCC to Rule On BART Cellphone Service Shutdown

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, August 31 2011

In the wake of a shutdown of cellphone service earlier this month the San Francisco Bay Area's commuter rail provider, BART, in order to stop a political protest, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others have asked the Federal Communications Commission to clarify that the shutdown was a violation of federal law.

The petition was sent Monday. GovTech has more information:

An emergency filing sent Monday, Aug. 29, to the FCC is asking the commission to swiftly rule that local governments don’t have the authority to shut off wireless communications systems — a direct rebuke of an incident earlier this month on San Francisco’s public transit.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology in Government, and several other organizations asserted in the emergency petition that Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) purposeful shutdown on Aug. 11 of wireless service used by passengers engendered public safety and infringed on citizen rights.

In the wake of the BART shutdown, an FCC spokesman said in a statement that the commission was gathering facts on the incident. The spokesman, Neil Grace, did not say the FCC was conducting an official inquiry. Reached Wednesday, Grace said the FCC's assessment was ongoing but declined to offer further comment on the record.