FCC launches probe following wireless blocking in San Francisco

Summary:Whether it was legal or not, we might soon find out as the FCC launches an investigation after wireless networks were blocked in a portion of San Francisco's subway system.

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), one of the subway systems in San Francisco, asked wireless providers to block their signals to four downtown stations in order to disrupt a looming protest.

That move has gotten nationwide attention from everyone ranging from civil liberties groups to that constantly busy hacktivist group, Anonymous.

Now, the Federal Communications Commission is getting involved. The National Journal is reporting that the FCC has released a statement regarding the kerfuffle. Specifically, the FCC will be launching a probe into the incident as the FCC spokesman Neil Grace wrote that "anytime communications services are interrupted, we seek to assess the situation."

This could go either way for BART. Either the FCC has penned this letter and will conduct an investigation just for the sake of doing so and looking like they're doing something about the matter, or they could make a bad example out of BART.

Signs are pointing to the latter, as The San Francisco Chronicle posits that BART's attempt to interrupt cell phone service was illegal, regardless of the method the transit authority used.

Nevertheless, BART is still sticking to its original story that its actions were within their legal rights, arguing that it only "temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform." Additionally, wireless signals weren't blocked outside, but only within four specific stations -- not throughout the entire system or even the Transbay Tube.

More protests, which will likely have more to do with these actions rather than the original source of recent protests (a fatal shooting involving BART police), are expected during Monday's commute.

Related:

Topics: Government : US, Government, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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