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The Right Cell Phone Policy In Boston.

The Associated Press reported that cell phone service had been shut down in Boston in the aftermath of today’s tragic Boston Marathon bombing. Happily, this report — sourced to an anonymous official — appears to be mistaken. Verizon and Sprint report that their networks are overwhelmed by the sudden spike in volume (common after a sudden disaster) but they have not been asked to suspend service and are in fact looking to increase capacity.

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PK and Others Urge FCC to Prevent State, Local Cell Shutdowns

Today, we filed comments with a number of other public interest groups urging the FCC to issue rules that would prevent state and local governments from shutting off cell service in situations like the BART protests of last summer.

The comments that we filed today were replies to several issues raised in the first round. In particular, we were responding to arguments raised about who gets to initiate shutdowns, the constitutionality of some proposed and existing shutdown procedures, and the fact that government agencies cutting of access to the public airwaves still runs afoul of the First Amendment, even if they’re cutting off access in areas that aren’t traditional public forums.

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Shutdowns Of Wireless Service Threaten Public Safety, Groups Tell FCC

No 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.

The 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.

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BART Update: The FCC is Seeking Comments Now

Last Thursday, the FCC announced that it is seeking comment on issues raised by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) shutdown of cellphone service back in August. 

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Public Knowledge Applauds FCC Notice On Public Safety Wireless Cutoff

The following is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge:

“The Federal Communications Commission yesterday asked for public comment to determine the proper policy when government authorities intentionally disrupt wireless service.  The notice came about as a result of the actions on August 11, 2011 when the San Francisco-area Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) cut off wireless service, claiming a threat to public safety.

“We are pleased that the Commission is looking into this very important issue.  On August 29, 2011, Public Knowledge, along with Broadband Institute of California, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Media Justice, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Access Project, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, and National Hispanic Media Coalition, asked the Commission to rule whether the action by BART authorities was legal under the Communications Act.

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