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

May 30, 2012 BART , FCC , Jamming , Mobile Communication , Wireless

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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PK Urges FCC to Prevent Emergency Wireless Service Interruptions

May 2, 2012 Interference , Jamming , Mobile Communication , Public Safety , Radio Interference

This week, Public Knowledge, along with the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and several other public interest groups, urged the FCC to ensure that neither government agencies nor wireless providers shut down communications in an emergency.

The comments, also signed by the Benton Foundation, Free Press, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Minority Media Telecommunications Council, and the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation, respond to the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry, which asked about what procedures should be followed when government wanted to shut down communications during a crisis.

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Government-Ordered Wireless Shutdowns: Possibly Unconstitutional, Likely Illegal, Never a Great Idea

March 14, 2012 FCC , Jamming , Mobile Communication , Public Safety , Regulation

As Kara noted last week, the FCC is asking you to comment on when it’s appropriate for government agencies to cut off cellular services in the interests of public safety. For a variety of reasons, my initial answer to that is “rarely, if ever.” Aside from definite knowledge of a cell phone-triggered bomb, or a freak occurrence where the 800-900MHz range somehow interfered with a pacemaker, it just doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea. There’s a host of reasons why, and a lot of them were argued in the wake of BART’s October shutdown of cell service in anticipation of a protest. But this isn’t about BART; it’s about preventing future unnecessary shutdowns.

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Public Knowledge Urges FCC to Prevent Future BART-like Shutdowns

August 29, 2011 Jamming , Mobile Communication , Non-Discrimination , Public Safety , Radio Interference

Today, Public Knowledge, joined by a wide variety of consumer, civil rights, and civil liberties groups, urged the FCC to immediately pass rules that would prevent local authorities from ordering a shutdown of wireless services the way that BART did earlier this month. As Harold’s earlier blog post points out, we don’t even need to get to the (extremely pressing and important) First Amendment issues to find that BART’s actions violated the law—the Communications Act, to be precise.

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When Banning Works Better than Blocking: Bill Proposes to Make Prison Cell (Phones) Contraband

July 22, 2010 Competition , Enforcement , Jamming , Mobile Communication , Wireless

The Associated Press brings us the news that both house of Congress have passed parallel bills to ban the use of cell phones and other wireless devices in federal prisons. The bill, S. 1749, was introduced to curb the illicit use of cell phones within prisons to conduct criminal business from inside prisons.

This solution stands in stark contrast to one that had been shopped around not too long ago by vendors of cell blocking tech, where prisons would install jammers to block cellular signals in and around prisons. Fortunately, instead of trotting out a technological solution (with its concomitant negative effects on legitimate users) to what is a broader problem, this bill attempts to address the problem by using tools already in place within the system.

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