Background: On August 11, 2011, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), anticipating protests and demonstrations in its stations, shut down access to cellular communications, disrupted mobile phone and data service to a massive number of consumers for up to four hours. Later that month, Public Knowledge along with eight other public interest organizations filed a Petition asking the FCC to declare that the BART’s actions violated the Communications Act. Yesterday, BART adopted a new policy on cell service interruption.
The link to our August petition is here: http://www.publicknowledge.org/emergency-petition-declaratory-ruling-re-bart
The following statement is attributed to Harold Feld, Legal Director of Public Knowledge:
“As we have told the FCC before, there is a clear public interest in preserving the right of free speech and the guidance set forth in the Communications Act, which guarantees the right of members of the public to access the phone system. We applaud the FCC for recognizing the important free speech rights and public safety implications when local authorities shut down cellular phone networks, and pledging to start a public process at the national level to protect these important public interests.
“In its statement following BART’s adoption of new cell service interruption policy, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its intentions to begin an open, public process to further review the important legal and policy issues surrounding BART’s decision to interrupt access to cell service without regard for free speech. We encourage the FCC to move forward with this process of public comment and to ensure that other local authorities don’t make the same shortsighted and dangerous mistake in the future. We are still concerned that BART’s new policy is not as strong as it could be in safeguarding free speech and ensuring due process, making it all the more important for the FCC to provide national guidance.”