FCC to investigate San Francisco BART's wireless service shutdown

The FCC said it will look into the decision by the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system to shut down cell phone service in several stations last week to thwart a protest.

"Any time communications services are interrupted, we seek to assess the situation," FCC spokesman Neil Grace said in a statement. "We are continuing to collect information about BART's actions and will be taking steps to hear from stakeholders about the important issues those actions raised, including protecting public safety and ensuring the availability of communications networks."

BART's decision to interrupt wireless service in several subway station platforms prompted an outcry over whether the metro system had exceeded its authority. Civil liberty and privacy groups protested BART's actions.

BART admitted that it cut the service in response to protests that were being organized via mobile devices. BART said in a statement Friday that it interrupted wireless service at stations to thwart protesters who planned to disrupt service. The protesters were organizing to draw attention to a fatal shooting at a BART station in July allegedly involving police.

"Organizers planning to disrupt BART service on Aug. 11, 2011 stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police," BART said in a statement. "A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators."

For more:
- see this National Journal article
- see this GigaOM post

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