updated 03:40 pm EDT, Wed August 24, 2011
FCC to look into whether BART violated rights
Concerns that San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system illegally blocked cell phone signals in anticipation of a protest may have violated First Amendment rights, according CNET. At a tech conference on Tuesday, FCC commissioner Robert McDowell said the ongoing investigation into the matter will look into whether any civil liberties were broken.
An open letter from BART sent out on August 20 maintains that the interruption wasn't intended to violate First Amendment rights of any person but instead to thwart the planned coordination of illegal activity that could result in a threat to public safety. Federal courts limit the ability of state and municipal governments to shut down communication on certain types of government property. If it's found that BART's subway platforms are indeed legally categorized as limited public forums, then the agency will have broken First Amendment rights.
BART should have obtained a legal order from the California Public Utility Commission to legally disable the phone service, Public Knowledge legal director Harold Feld believes.