Concerned by the San Francisco BART system's decision to suspend cellular service to frustrate coordination among protesters angered by the fatal transit police shooting of an unarmed passenger, the FCC is holding a public inquiry seeking comment on who should be allowed to order cellular service shutoffs, and when. Here's the notice, with instructions for replying. Ars Technica's Megan Geuss writes:
But the FCC's public notice also states that law enforcement personnel have raised concerns that, "wireless service could be used to trigger the detonation of an explosive device or to organize the activities of a violent flash mob," suggesting local government authorities like BART should be allowed to retain some autonomy over service in its stations.
The FCC's decision will most likely set a clear precedent for other local government agencies. So far, two electronic public comments have been posted (the FCC lets you post comments online or send them in by mail), both in favor of more severe restrictions on who can turn off cell phone service and when. "The only time it should be legal to shut down a wireless network is when it is necessary to do so to repair a defect, or when it is necessary to prevent an attack that is compromising the ability of the network to function." said one commenter, "the government and government agencies are not wise enough to judge any other scenario in which one might think about shutting down a network."
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