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Government Asks When It Can Shut Down Wireless Communications

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the right-after-we-vote-you-all-out-of-office dept.

Censorship 267

Fluffeh writes "Around nine months ago, BART Police asked to have wireless communications disabled (PDF) between Trans Bay Tube Portal and the Balboa Park Station. That was because they knew a public protest was to take place there — and the service to the underground communication system was disabled. This affected not only cellphone signals, but also the radio systems of Police, Fire and Ambulance crews (PDF) within the underground. This led to an even larger protest at a BART station and many folks filed complaints along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation. The FCC responded by launching a probe into the incident. The results were a mixed bag of 'To protect citizens!' and 'Only in extreme cases,' not to mention the classic 'Terrorists use wireless communications!' But even if the probe doesn't lead to a full proceeding and formal order, the findings may well be used as a guide for many years to come."

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267 comments

"Whenever you ask," say the telcos, of course (5, Interesting)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#39933071)

it's clear that the big wireless companies are willing to shut down service—but they want the government to offer some direction. "Verizon Wireless understands that there may be some cases where shutting down wireless service to an area is necessary," the company wrote to the FCC on May 1. "In such cases, wireless carriers need a process for ensuring that the decision to shut down the network has been appropriately vetted and that the request comes from a single, reliable source."

In other words, as long as it comes from a recognized government official, we'll be happy to comply.

I think that's the same policy telcos have in Egypt and Syria, no?

So what's the answer, then? Never? (2)

daveschroeder (516195) | about 2 years ago | (#39933215)

Given the narrow scope of the question, isn't this precisely how we expect the deliberative process on such a question to work?

Or is the answer always, "never"?

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (4, Insightful)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about 2 years ago | (#39933297)

Yeah, it should always be never. In what situation would shutting down the cell networks be appropriate? Never mind the fact that government officials are obviously willing to use this merely to suppress free speech, so the process can't possibly be acceptable.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933809)

So basically, since *you* can't imagine a scenario where it would be appropriate, that means there is no such scenario in existance. Kind of like how if someone can't imaging how life could evolved with such complexity, then that means it had to have been made by a God.
Arrogance is good at making people stupid.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (5, Insightful)

SnapaJones (2634697) | about 2 years ago | (#39934037)

For me, freedom comes first. There is no reason to shut them down (just like there's no reason for the TSA or Patriot Act).

But I agree that the whole, "I can't think of an explanation, so none exist." argument isn't logical.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#39934161)

The only time it could ever be acceptable would be if terrorists were actively using cellular phones to control the detonators for explosive devices, and even then, it should be shut down only long enough to sweep the expected target area for such devices. In all other circumstances, it should be disallowed. In other words, very nearly never.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39934219)

just like there's no reason for the TSA or Patriot Act

Yes and no. Yes, TSA and the Patriot Act are bad solutions. On other hand, just like we all demand freedom, we also demand bomb-free travel. So between a bad solution and no solution... at least they're trying.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (0)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#39934135)

So basically, since *you* can't imagine a scenario where it would be appropriate, that means there is no such scenario in existance. Kind of like how if someone can't imaging how life could evolved with such complexity, then that means it had to have been made by a God.

Well, you could suggest a scenario yourself... or, you know, continue being a dickhead for no good reason.

Arrogance is good at making people stupid.

No shit, Pot.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#39933319)

Or is the answer always, "never"?

No, but I would hope the answer would be a little better than "As long as the guy asking has proper government credentials."

No, the answer is "never" (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39933359)

There is no reason to give the government the power to shut down vital communication systems. Such power can only be abused and serves no legitimate purpose.

Re:No, the answer is "never" (4, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#39933611)

Hell they already have abused it. Witness the whole BART fiasco we are talking about.

Re:No, the answer is "never" (1)

Digicrat (973598) | about 2 years ago | (#39934071)

How about the (admittedly unlikely) case of a known bomb threat in a given region with a cell phone as its remote detonator? Or perhaps a known threat/disaster in an enclosed and highly crowded space where controlling information is necessary to prevent panic and facilitate an orderly evacuation?

The key is that such capabilities should only be exercised under extreme conditions where lives are in danger -- but never for mere political expediency (ie: impeding a legitimate protest).

Re:No, the answer is "never" (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#39934275)

You can just as easily make it trigger when it receives no signal as to make it trigger from a phone call.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933365)

Given the narrow scope of the question, isn't this precisely how we expect the deliberative process on such a question to work?

Or is the answer always, "never"?

Yes. Never.

We are supposed to be a FREE and OPEN society. When we start restricting people's communications, their RIGHT to peacefully assemble (blacking out communications aids in restricting protests), and having this whole BIG BROTHER - LAW and ORDER mentality, we are heading down a very dangerous road. Just because you don't like what protestors have to say or what their issues are doesn't mean we should silince them or dampen their ability to organize.

One day it will affect you - or a group that you agree with and then THEIR ability to protest will be curtailed - and there will be a precendent.

That's somethign folks always forget, when you limit folks you don't agree with they're limitations will be yours.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933473)

I question: with big capital controlling the media(and them deciding which stories reach the screen), Don't we already have a bit of big brother ?

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 2 years ago | (#39933605)

Yes and it was always about corporations being big brother. Government being big brother is a red herring.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933993)

These people were assembling on the loading platforms which is a stupid and dangerous place to protest. Overcrowding can easily cause someone to be pushed down onto the tracks. How in the hell can you call this a "peaceful" protest within the rights of the people?
The "protest" planned on disrupting BART services as well. Since when does anyone have the right to prevent others from exercising their right to travel?
Do you actually believe you have the right to take rights away from others?
Try reading the Constitution some time. Your rights end when they interfere with the rights of others. If you want to protest, you better make damn sure you do not interfere with other's rights and that includes the right to travel by whatever means a person chooses.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (1)

foobsr (693224) | about 2 years ago | (#39934095)

We are supposed to be a FREE and OPEN society.

Actually, you maybe were "supposed ...", probably by those who designed your constitution.

Albeit, it never really worked (e.g. discrimination by ethnic origin thwarting both 'FREE' and 'OPEN').

Cc.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#39933669)

I would say never. Only because I cannot think of anytime they should do that. Can you?

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | about 2 years ago | (#39933849)

Given you are essentially disarming the population and preparing for an attack of some sort noting short of Martial law should give the government such powers.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (1)

foobsr (693224) | about 2 years ago | (#39934215)

Given you are essentially disarming the population and preparing for an attack of some sort ...

So the wet dream of any BOFH (a data centre without users) would scale up to a government without a populace (a day after all those bloody nuisances have been wiped away)?

CC.

Re:So what's the answer, then? Never? (2, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#39933963)

They didn't shut it down for the same reasons roads are sometimes closed (weather emergency or major accident). They shut it down to censor free speech & prevent a protest. The air belongs to the People and they have a right to use it. They should never be blocked from using their property, except for a real emergency.

(And before you claim the air belongs to someone else..... it does not. It is RENTED to companies, but the ownership remains with the people, from which all legitimate power derives.)

Re:"Whenever you ask," say the telcos, of course (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#39933271)

I think that's the same policy telcos have in Egypt and Syria, no?

I assume the new government in Egypt has not done anything to distinguish itself from Mubarak in that regard aside from maybe cross-their-heart, hope-to-die promising not shut down the Internet and cell phone service unless it's really really super-duper important?

Re:"Whenever you ask," say the telcos, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933295)

I think it's more along the lines of "If there is due process of law, then we will be happy to comply, but currently there isn't any."

In Egypt in Syria it was more "The guy with the guns told us to shut down. Yeah, we'll do that."

Re:"Whenever you ask," say the telcos, of course (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#39933391)

Yeah, I didn't see anything in their response about any "due process of law." Sounds like they just want to make sure the request comes from a recognized government official or office (presumably so they can blame it all on them if there's a PR backlash).

Re:"Whenever you ask," say the telcos, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933889)

"Verizon Wireless understands that there may be some cases where shutting down wireless service to an area is necessary," the company wrote to the FCC on May 1. "In such cases, wireless carriers need a process for ensuring that the decision to shut down the network has been appropriately vetted and that the request comes from a single, reliable source."

Emphasis mine.

Re:"Whenever you ask," say the telcos, of course (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 years ago | (#39933477)

Well, that depends on the government official now doesn't it!

Look at Verizon's wording again:

"In such cases, wireless carriers need a process for ensuring that the decision to shut down the network has been appropriately vetted and that the request comes from a single, reliable source."

Pre-911, that wording meant one thing and ONE THING only. A judge.

Re:"Whenever you ask," say the telcos, of course (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#39933749)

In other words, as long as it comes from a recognized government official, we'll be happy to comply.

The simpler answer is to not absolve the wireless carriers of liability if they comply. The fear of lawsuits will keep them from making such a decision lightly, official request or not.

Never? (2, Interesting)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 2 years ago | (#39933105)

It's easy to say "never", but we all could come up with scenarios where it might save lives to cut off service. The big question is "will they ever know about a threat far enough in advance to stop it by cutting cell service?" Probably not.

Re:Never? (2)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | about 2 years ago | (#39933225)

Because terrorists will always decide to go home and not blow up a DIFFERENT group of random people instead of the intended group of random people because they dont know where to go due to no cell service.

There is no justifiable reason to shut this service off, ever.

Re:Never? (5, Funny)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 years ago | (#39933525)

I can think of a very obvious case where shutting down a cellphone would save lives: when, if the bastard answers the fucking thing one more time, I'm going to climb over the three rows of cinema seats in front of me and beat him to death with it.

Re:Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933775)

no mod points, so ill just say, LOL'd my face off.

Re:Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39934223)

beat him to death with it.

That could be a challenge with today's phones, try "Shove it up his ass" ...

Re:Never? (1)

SilentStaid (1474575) | about 2 years ago | (#39933851)

I don't agree with ever shutting down communications, ever.

That being said, there are a number of examples where explosives have been detonated by cellphone. Imagine what a neat and tidy solution that would be if cell service was shut down on a grid where a bomb was placed, thereby negating the detonator... it's wishful thinking at best, sure -- you and I know that -- but we do need to at least attempt to acknowledge this kind of scenario in order to properly combat the arguments of people in favor of this.

Re:Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39934315)

Yes, preventing a bomb detonation or a terrorist attack is a valid reason to shut down a network or jam a signal. The rest of the reasons are slippery.

Re:Never? (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 2 years ago | (#39934317)

Think about that logic for a minute. And they will detect that the explosive has a phone detonator how? And disabling a phone number, instead of blacking out the service when they find it is invalid how exactly?

Now, I really want you to do some reading (but I have doubts you will do so). How many cell phones on legitimate cell phone networks do you think are responsible for the IED explosions in Afghanistan or Iraq? Sorry, but the Jihad does not have the funding to pay for monthly phone plans.

This is propaganda for a police state, plain as day.

Oh, and 5 bucks says that the law gets drafted, fought over, then Obama signs it July 3rd at 11:59 PM.

Re:Never? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39933273)

we all could come up with scenarios where it might save lives to cut off service

The only one I can think of is a situation where a bomb will be triggered by a cell phone receiving a call. Except that a bomb could just as easily be triggered by a cell phone call ending, so shutting the network down would only really work once or twice.

Of course, that is not the situation that we saw in the BART case. The point of shutting down the phone network there was to stifle protest. Since the government will always claim that protesters are terrorists, the short answer is that the government should never have the right to shut down out communication systems, and that if the government will start doing so we will need to deploy networks with a less centralized topology.

Re:Never? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#39933593)

and that if the government will start doing so we will need to deploy networks with a less centralized topology

Shortly followed up with them actively jamming. Believe me, they won't have the power restrictions the rest of us have, so there would be no way to get through that jamming.

Re:Never? (2)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 2 years ago | (#39933617)

It's not to stifle process, it's to stop people from live-streaming evidence of police brutality or uploading videos to YouTube before they confiscate and erase / lose / impound your memory card.

You have to remember where this stems from -- someone filmed 5 RCMP officers engaging in premeditated murder against a Polish Immigrant. If not for the pesky video, the police would have been able to stick to their story since it was the word of 5 police vs one dead guy (or perhaps a handful of "confused, non-expert witnesses") Admittedly, they didn't go to jail, but there was an inquiry and odds are they will end up civilly liable for the death.

We can all cite at least one other example where video evidence directly contradicts what the police are saying. Filming the police and making sure the videos can't be destroyed takes away their power. They can't have that.

Re:Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39934149)

Locally, it stems from a similar situation in 2009 where a BART cop shot a guy in cold blood in front of about 100 cameras/phones (and then they tried to cover it up by grabbing cellphones). IIRC, the protest in question was actually against police brutality.

treat them like they treat you. (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 2 years ago | (#39934299)

You have to remember where this stems from --

Yeah, a BARTcop shooting a customer who was compliant to orders and lying on the ground.
Oh, and a handful of miscellaneous other beat-downs, too.

Re:Never? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#39933987)

The entierty of the idea tha shutting down the cellular network will stop a bomb from going off is retarded. If you are already wiring up a bomb with a cellphone trigger, its trivial to add in other deadman's switch mechanisms. In short the whole argument falls flat on its face.

Re:Never? (1)

Marillion (33728) | about 2 years ago | (#39933285)

Why are you trying to bring a well reasoned and nuanced ideas into Slashdot?
While I cannot think of a scenario that would warrant wireless service shutdown I'm sure there are some. I'm also pretty sure that those situations would be severe enough that they should also probably shut down passenger service as well.

Re:Never? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 2 years ago | (#39933317)

Why are you trying to bring a well reasoned and nuanced ideas into Slashdot?

I apologize. I started drinking early today and it appears to have affected my posts ;-)

Re:Never? (1)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about 2 years ago | (#39933361)

"We could all come up with scenarios" is not an argument. If it's so easy, then post an actual situation! I challenge anyone to come up with one that is remotely realistic. "The terrorists are using it to coordinate their efforts" falls down on a number of points: If you know that, you've intercepted the calls, and can just block or track the individuals! If you know their plans, you're one step ahead of where you would be if you shut down the network and have no idea about their fallbacks. If you cut the networks, emergency response is massively hindered. Etc., etc., etc.

Re:Never? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39933413)

How about, the terrorists are using a cell phone as a trigger for a bomb i.e. a bomb will explode when a call is received? That really happens in some countries, though those countries do not respond by shutting down the cell system.

Of course, a bomb can also be triggered by a call ending, so either we stop having cell phones or else we acknowledge that there is no legitimate reason for the government to cut off service.

Re:Never? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#39933853)

How, exactly, do you know they work that way? That makes no sense to me. One intelligent design is every time the phone rx a txt message, the reset button on a 5 minute timer is pushed. So 5 minutes after they decide to stop sending texts, or 5 minutes after the phone network is shut down, boom. Seems blindingly obvious to a programmer type. No reason the boom can't be a "OR" function of the txt timer OR a plain ole phone call.

All I can say is cellphone telemarketers must be a headache for people who design and deploy the real thing...

Re:Never? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#39934057)

"We could all come up with scenarios" is not an argument. If it's so easy, then post an actual situation! I challenge anyone to come up with one that is remotely realistic.

How about all the rioting and all that that took place in England back in 2011? Rioting seems to me a logical time to shut down cellular communication, as rioters could use cell phones to communicate between groups and avoid police crackdowns, move to new areas, or form new groups/get more people to join. I'm not talking Occupy protests, or what happened in Tahrir Square. I mean when you have major property damage, violence, and injuries. At the very least it would make it that much harder for the riots to spread.

Re:Never? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39934309)

You're supposing government who would cut off communications to its electorate thinks there is any difference between a protest and a riot.

At best it would become "Thankfully we stopped the protest turning into a riot by killing the cell services.".

No we can't. Nor could you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933633)

....we all could come up with scenarios where it might save lives to cut off service.

Name one.

Re:Never? (2)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 2 years ago | (#39933663)

Yup and we could save lives by only letting truckers and buss drivers on the roads. Life is a risk accept that. Now I am all behind the existing system were the government can prioritize there own wireless traffic in an emergency.

Re:Never? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#39934093)

we all could come up with scenarios where it might save lives to cut off service

Then come up with some if it's so easy. You made a bold statement without anything to back it up. As for me, I can't imagine that cutting communications could be helpful in any emergency.

Re:Never? (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 2 years ago | (#39934171)

And it's easy to imagine fictional scenarios credible enough to request a shutdown while it isn't necessary and for other reasons. Can we trust them to us wisely this power. THAT is THE big question.

When can I shut it down? (0, Troll)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39933151)

Here is a simpler question: when can I, an individual citizen, shut down wireless communication? If I cannot just shut down vital communication systems, why should the government be allowed to?

Re:When can I shut it down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933207)

Because they are the authority and you aren't. What a stupid question.

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about 2 years ago | (#39933393)

I agree it's a stupid question, but "authorities can do and be trusted to do whatever they want", which is what you seem to be implying, is equally stupid.

Re:When can I shut it down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933509)

I implied no such thing. Beat your strawmen elsewhere.

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39933515)

OK, so, who do you think should be allowed to do so? You do not think that I should -- and I personally agree -- and you seem to think that the government cannot be trusted to do so either, so I am somewhat curious here. Do you envision legitimate reasons to shut down the cell network?

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#39934065)

Monopoly on Violence determines who is the 'authority'. The argument becomes moot after that.

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#39933831)

It's the same reason you must be a member of the AMA union to practice medicine or go to jail. The "authorities" (AMA) regulate themselves with formal processes to ensure safety of those involved. They aren't trusted any more than the non-union members, in fact it could be argued they are trusted less, as there is a formal process in place for review, rather than having to use the courts for any non-member inadvertently harming someone.

The same case exists with the police and internal affairs departments for overview. Though that doesn't work because there are more bad cops than good cops, so the foxes are in charge of the henhouse.

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39933903)

The question is not really about who should be allowed to shut down the cell phone system; the point of the question is that there is never a legitimate reason for anyone to shut it down. The fact that an emergency call might be missed as a result of a shutdown is not the main problem. The main problem is that when a communication system is shut down, people lose their ability to speak -- there is no legitimate use for such power.

Re:When can I shut it down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933369)

In this case, BART actually owns the subway cellular system. If you build your own cell network, you can turn it on/off whenever you'd like.

Also this situation was hilarious:
1) people take train to protests
2) phones don't work, can't figure out which stop to take
3) everyone just goes home
4) go back to mom's basement & rage on internet about having twitter rights revoked

Next time, just try walking up the steps, you fat btards

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 2 years ago | (#39933837)

They may own it but it does not give them the right to shut it off. Emergency calls must make it through, the system does not care if the phone has an account was stolen etc 911 just works. They took down part of an emergency service with no technical reason. Wireless services are using the public space to make money that comes with responsibility.

Hopefully the FCC does it job to insure this never happens again. Doubtful but I can hope. Protesters in a public space, is that not part of what public spaces are for?

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#39933405)

I've seen some real good comments out of you in the past, is this some sort of rhetorical question or just troll bait?

Do you really want an answer to this question?

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39933475)

It is a rhetorical question. I do not see any good reason for anyone, and individual or the government, to shut down the cell network. Aside from the issue of emergency calls being missed, who do you think should be trusted with the power to decide when people are allowed to communicate? Cell phones are one of the most important communication tools in America these days; I cannot see any way that the power to shut down the cell phone network would not be abused, and it is difficult to envision legitimate reasons for such a shut down.

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#39933859)

But the argument, "if an individual can't do it, the govt. shouldn't be able to" is pretty silly. Basically the whole point of government is to solve problems that aren't well solved by individuals or free markets. Imprisoning people is a good example. Note, I'm not arguing govt. should therefore be able to do anything and everything, only that your original argument (the title of this thread) has no bearing on anything one way or the other.

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#39933955)

Cell phone disruption is a standard practice of cracking down by totalitarian governments.

Has the US government scolded any country for doing that?

Re:When can I shut it down? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#39933991)

Here is a simpler question: when can I, an individual citizen, shut down wireless communication?

That's easy, just call in an anonymous tip that there's something that goes "boom" attached to a cellphone, obviously.

This in itself is an interesting attack vector. You see, this will train people that when the cell service goes down, that means they are in extremely close proximity to a bomb thats about to go off, TSA goons are about to swoop in and beat everyone in sight, etc.

So the "real" attack vector is to build and plant absolutely nothing, select a nice crowded area, call in a completely fake threat, get wireless service shut off, resulting panic by 80K football fans all trying to instantly simultaneously frantically escape a stadium thats about to go boom or whatever, results in dozens if not hundreds of deaths by trampling... and the beauty of it is the government did it to themselves by fearmongering to gain power, and the attackers can be sitting on the other side of the planet using the wonders of modern telecommunications. Or it can be a false flag operation, of course, which is probably the largest source of terrorist attacks anyway.

Once you teach people and the government that cell outages mean nothing by doing this a couple times, then you start doing it for real, of course, which adds to the excitement.

Do you think I should quit my day job and become a hollywood writer or maybe a security consultant? Both jobs just seem to boil down to streaming out some scarey bs in exchange for piles of money.

Surprise Surprise (1)

samazon (2601193) | about 2 years ago | (#39933157)

The government doesn't like demonstrations. [firstamendmentcenter.org] I was at the '08 DNC, inside the 'Freedom Cage' - they're just catching up with the tech trends. The question is, what definition will they hold for "disruption" and "public" - icydrta - "the filing contends that that "balance" must "resonate" in any wireless communications shutdown policy. The Commission should understand that certain situations could present a "credible threat," says the group, and thus, "Interrupting wireless service, when balanced against the disruption to the public, may be a reasoned alternative to consider." "

Real simple (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#39933173)

If they own the antenna's and repeaters, then it is their property and they should be able to shut it down when they want. Just like I can turn off my Air Conditioning whenever I want, because I pay for it. Somebody else cannot come into my house and tell me "turn your AC on." However, if this wireless infrastructure is owned by another entity (cell phone providers), then the government has no legal authority to turn it off. When I was working in downtown DC, all the old building had cell phone repeaters on the roof because of the poor signal through marble. Those repeaters were owned by the phone companies, and the phone company actually paid the government to allow them to install the mini-towers there. If there is a similar arrangement on the BART system, then the phone company is effectively leasing part of the area inside the trains to operate their equipment. If the lease says the government can turn it off, then they can. If there is no such provision in the lease, we should be mad at the service providers.

Re:Real simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933623)

"If they own the antenna's and repeaters, then it is their property and they should be able to shut it down when they want."

Your argument sucks because the *they* is a government entity. Since the governemnt does not *enjoy* the same property rights as a private entity the equivilance is busted.

Re:Real simple (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39933793)

If they own the antenna's and repeaters, then it is their property and they should be able to shut it down when they want.

  1. The government has already shown its willingness to abuse the power to shut off repeaters. Such abuses are inevitable and cannot be tolerated by a free society.
  2. Telecom services are vital and people rely upon them. Can I sue the government when I take a financial loss as a result of deliberately disrupted service?

Governments must never be allowed to prevent people from speaking, nor must they be allowed to stifle protests. Even if the government owns the communication system in question, they must not be allowed to shut it down except for legitimate maintenance.

Why shut it down? (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#39933181)

Why not just restrict the services that can be used down to emergency services only?

To put it another way (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#39933841)

Why not allow the government to dictate when people can talk to each other? That is what shutting a communication system down, or restricting the system so that only emergency calls can be made, is doing: restricting how, when, and with whom people can communicate (in a very literal sense).

Re:To put it another way (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#39934235)

I guess my point was why completely disable the system which is easy to make an argument against rather than restrict it to emergency services which is harder to argue against.

Basically since they are lazy and by shutting it completely down they are having a harder time justifying their actions.

Your point about them infringing on our freedom of speech is the correct argument to be making though.

Jamming (or cutoff) is bad, mmkay? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#39933201)

Unless you are protecting a military asset, keep your hands off the jammer / wire-cutters. Period.

Find another solution.

Short answer (1)

koan (80826) | about 2 years ago | (#39933519)

You can't shut down cell services there may be an emergency call that needs to be made.

Re:Short answer (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#39933531)

Hell did you see that doing so cut off police, fire, and medical response radio as well? What the hell, BART!?

One medical lawsuit is all it will take (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933651)

Oh, he died? Debilitating injury due to treatment delays?
People hurt because police/crowd control couldn't get there in time?
  Citizens burned or killed by smoke because fire fighters didn't get there on time?
  Order to open emergency doors not issued in a timely manner?

Lotsa lawsuits are easily envisioned.

I think this is flat out a first amendment issue (1)

SlippyToad (240532) | about 2 years ago | (#39933725)

The government wants to be able to squelch protests.

I think the answer is NEVER.

Re:I think this is flat out a first amendment issu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39934137)

The Supreme Court doesn't interpet the First Amendment that way.
The government has the authority to restrict the time, place, and manner of assembly/protest.

freeman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933761)

all this means is protesters will have to come up with clever ways to keep communications flowing in these areas. You can build some homebrew wireless backhauls along with microcells and even a WAP to bring communications to these areas. Its time to think about building a freemans roaming internet cell service to fight against these exact types of abuses.

Martial Law (2, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 2 years ago | (#39933801)

Seems like an easy answer to me -- the government has the authority to inhibit free speech any time they declare martial law.

Handheld radios? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933811)

Next time you're going to protest, fuck the cell phone.

Reminder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933893)

I'll just leave this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Revolution

Drop the providers, keep the WiFi... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39933905)

I wonder if there are any applications to turn WiFi-enabled smartphones into a mesh relay network. That will enable a communication channel in case of provider shutdown. Self-organizing wireless mesh networks was a popular topic few years ago.

Its really a simple question... (1)

3seas (184403) | about 2 years ago | (#39933913)

...who is it that has a problem with the 1st amendment?

There is no complicating this simple straight forward question with any additional babel!
There is a simple and straight forward reason why it's the FIRST Amendment, not the second or third or any other.

Amerika, land of those who love their manacles. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39934105)

Fucking IDIOTS shut down the POLICE radios ?

That in itself is so fucking stupid it beggars belief.

Glad I don't live in California, glad I never will.

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