Shutdowns Of Wireless Service Threaten Public Safety, Groups Tell FCC
Shutdowns Of Wireless Service Threaten Public Safety, Groups Tell FCC
Shutdowns Of Wireless Service Threaten Public Safety, Groups Tell FCC

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    government or private company should be able to shut down wireless service in
    an emergency, several public interest groups told the Federal Communications
    Commission (FCC) in comments filed late April 30.

    Commission had asked for comments on the issue in the wake of a shutdown of
    service in San Francisco by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District.

    In a joint filing, Public
    Knowledge, the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Electronic Frontier
    Foundation, the Benton Foundation Free Press, the Minority Media and
    Telecommunications Council, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the Open
    Technology Institute at the New America Foundation said that a service shutdown
    would violate a “general principle of providing access to wireless
    communications and preventing their interruption during emergencies has been a
    cornerstone of public safety policy” that started with the sinking of the
    Titanic 100 years ago

    The groups argued that there have been no cases which would
    justify such a drastic step and in which the benefits would outweigh the
    harms.  The filing said: “Deliberately
    interrupting wireless service, in nearly all cases, will mean disrupting the
    communications of every person in the affected area.  Unlike the disconnection of a wireline connection, which can
    target an individual telephone facility, wireless interruption will necessarily
    prohibit the communications of completely innocent parties—precisely those
    parties closest to the site where the emergency is located or anticipated.”

    The groups noted that
    communications about an emergency aren’t all transmitted via a 9-1-1 emergency
    system: “For example, individuals often provide information to
    non-emergency channels such as news outlets or publicly-accessible sites like
    blogs, Twitter, Facebook, or other social media services.  Information disseminated in real time,
    whether to professional journalists or to the Internet at large, can serve
    valuable public safety purposes, informing first responders and other members
    of the public of hazardous or inaccessible areas and alerting people to important
    breaking developments.”

    private companies or other entities should not have the power to shut down
    communications even though they might be under great pressure to do so, the
    groups said:  ” The
    Commission should be clear in its recommendations, rules, or statements that
    private entities should not interrupt wireless services during emergency