Government could get kill-switch for cell phones

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Johnny Oxygen's picture
Johnny Oxygen
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 9 2009
Posts: 1443
Government could get kill-switch for cell phones

Following the decision from city officials in San Francisco to kill cell phone service at a moment’s notice throughout the Bay Area, the FCC is examining how a proposal of their own could implement similar measures across the US.

“The intent of this cell phone interruption policy is to balance free speech rights with legitimate public safety concerns,” BART Board President Bob Franklin tells reporters.

Along with the ongoing enforcement of the Patriot Act and Congress’ recent passing of the National Defense Authorization Act, this measure only accentuates what GOP candidate Newt Gingrich recently said was the country’s need to “try to find that balancing act between our individual liberties and security.”



...Now, however, the FCC is considering if changes should be made to national legislation that could allow for similar actions from coast-to-coast.

“The legal and policy issues raised by the type of wireless service interruption at issue here are significant and complex,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski writes in a press leased from their Washington DC office. “I have asked Commission staff to review these critical issues and consider the constraints that the Communications Act, First Amendment and other laws and policies place upon potential service interruptions.”

“We will soon announce an open, public process to provide guidance on these issues,” adds the chair.

­California residents outraged at ongoing acts of violence carried out in the hands of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officers in recent years displayed their disgust with a series of demonstrations earlier this year, which triggered city officials to throttle cell phone service in hopes of deterring angry riders from organizing protests. Despite a backlash of complaints from patrons and civil liberty advocates across the country, the BART system has officially implemented a legislation that allows them the ability to thwart service at their own discretion.

jrf29's picture
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 18 2008
Posts: 453
As a person whose town gets

As a person whose town gets no cell phone reception, I cannot get too excited about this.  But I think the authors of the article are not making an important distinction, and that is powers which can be safely exercised by local and state governments may be too dangerous to give to the federal government.

There is an old law in Massachusetts providing that in times of riot or great public excitement the selectmen of any town may prevent the public consumption of alcoholic beverages.  Is that interfering with a private service and the normal rights of citizens?  Yes.  And along with ordering the dispersal of all groups of three or more persons frpm the public streets, and setting curfews, these are the very least of the powers of local authorities in time of emergency.

Local and state governments have long had virtually unlimited authority to maintain order in times of emergency.

One of the most basic duties of government is to keep order.  Very strong tools must always be available even (and sometimes especially) to democratic governments, if they wish to survive for long.

There are many cases where cell phone service might need to be cut  quickly for a train emergency.  Cell-phone detonated bombs are a great example.  Considering the potential for train hi-jackings and cell-phone bombs, the ability to quickly ask the phone company to kill cell service is a power that I want BART to have.  Of course, BART could be riddled with violence and corruption for all I know.  But I'd say that's a good reason to address the corruption, because in the presence of corruption it never ends up making much difference what the law says anyway.

But I think we want to see local governments in control of these powers, rather than the central government.

So, rather than vainly protest the existence of the powers that have always been - and always will be - incident to government, I think the RT authors should more concern ourselves with how and when those powers are being used, and by whom.

The federal government is different than a local transportation authority, I think.  It's powers (and the powers of any central government) should be closely limited because effective citizen oversight and control is very difficult under the best of conditions.

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