FCC Issues Public Notice to Think Over Regulations on Wireless Interruptions

March 5, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Any disruption in the telecommunication networks is of prime importance to public safety. Don’t you think so?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the apex regulatory body in the US telecommunication sector, is thinking of implementing serious regulations against attempts from authorities to intentionally disrupt wireless services.

The decision comes after the incident in August last year, when Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police Department deliberately disrupted the mobile phone services in a number of stations for three hours during the afternoon to avoid an anticipated public protest against a fatal shooting of a man by a BART police officer.

FCC Issues Public Notice to Think Over Regulations on Wireless Interruptions

The incident has come under severe criticism from all quarters pointing to the serious legal as well as public safety issues involved with such deliberate disruption of wireless services. The FCC has issued a public notice on the matter last Thursday, seeking public comments on the need for a regulatory guidance in such situations.

The protest was supposed to be coordinated through text messages including the location of the demonstration. Police has responded that they were trying to avoid a riot situation during the afternoon rush hour that could have been caused by such a protest.

Now, the FCC is mulling over options in such situations like interruption of all a general services except that of making 911 emergency calls. The concern is genuine since 70 percent of the total emergency call in the country is found to be originating from mobile phones.

The notice, which will take public comments till April 30, also seeks the overall legality of the issue of wireless interruption and the FCC’s authority over such shutdowns.

However, there are many who feel that BART has actually violated the first amendment by denying the chances of the public to communicate and putting them at high risk, by switching off the services which they did not own. They seek the matter can be handed only by the courts, not by the regulator.

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