Does The Gov Have the Authority to Block Cell Phone Usage During Emergencies?
A number of consumer advocates and digital civil rights groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have filed an emergency petition asking the FCC to review whether a government agency has the authority to close down channels of communication in the event of an emergency. This petition comes a little over a month after the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, or BART, shut down all cell phone communication, when citizens of the area organized on August 11th to protest the shooting of a passenger by BART authorities.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has noted that the decision to provide cell phone service in BART tunnels over a decade ago stemmed from the close connection of the San Francisco Community with passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, who found out via cell phone calls that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been attacked and then decided to thwart the hijackers on their flight. Additionally, critics of BART’s cell phone service shutdown have compared this incident to the telecommunication blockage tactics used to thwart riots in Libya and Syria.