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Cellphone-service shutdown bill clears legislators, heads to Brown

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S.F. Examiner File Photo
Roots: BART’s decision to disrupt phone service to stop a protest inspired the bill.

State legislators backed a bill this week that would require government agencies to obtain a court order before shutting down cellphone service.

Senate Bill 1160, introduced by Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles, was a reaction to last summer’s decision by BART officials to shut down mobile service in downtown San Francisco stations to thwart a demonstration targeting a July 2011 BART officer-involved fatal shooting. That decision sparked weeks of protests organized by the online hacker group Anonymous that claimed the decision violated free speech rights.

BART’s move also led to an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission and spurred the removal of longtime spokesman Linton Johnson, who hatched the shutdown idea.

Protesters in Oakland marked the anniversary of the decision with a demonstration on Monday, but it did not disrupt train service.

The bill, which was approved by the state Senate on Monday, will now be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. If approved, it will require agencies to cite specific reasons a service disruption is necessary before acting.


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