FCC seeking clear public signals on when to shut down wireless 

click to enlarge Last year, BART shut off wireless service in its downtown San Francisco stations in order to thwart a planned protest against the transit agency. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • Last year, BART shut off wireless service in its downtown San Francisco stations in order to thwart a planned protest against the transit agency.

In an effort to clarify when, why and how a government agency can shut down wireless service in the event of a safety threat, the Federal Communications Commission is asking for the public’s input.

Last week, the FCC petitioned for public comments on servicedisruptions by posing questions in six areas of concentration — including authority to interrupt service, legal constraints and pastpractices.

The FCC cited BART’s shutdown of cellphone service in order to thwart a planned August protest as one of many reasons to look at the need to disrupt service. The decision by BART officials backfired, leading to several more protests.

BART’s board of directors in December approved a policy that would allow for service shutdowns under “extreme circumstance.”

The FCC noted that wireless communication has become important in ensuring public safety, saying 70 percent of all emergency calls are made from cellular phones.

The comments will help the FCC determine what, if any, policy guidance it can provide to public agencies. Responses to the questions are due April 30. They can be turned in online at apps.fcc.gov/ecfs, docket No. 12-52.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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