Background: On August 11, 2011, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), anticipating protests and demonstrations in its stations, shut down access to cellular communications, disrupted mobile phone and data service to a massive number of consumers for up to four hours. Later that month, Public Knowledge along with eight other public interest organizations filed a Petition asking the FCC to declare that the BART’s actions violated the Communications Act. Yesterday, BART adopted a new policy on cell service interruption.
I suppose I am really a telecom lawyer at heart. My reaction to the news that the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police shut down cellphone networks in a number of stations on August 11 had nothing to do with democracy, the First Amendment, Tahrir Square, etc. With all deference to the importance of these concerns, my reaction was WHAT DO YOU MEAN THESE IDIOTS MESSED WITH THE PHONE SYSTEM? From my perspective, and the perspective of traditional telecom law, BART could just as well have turned off the local central office and all this chatter about whether or not BART is a public forum is just a distraction.