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BART Defends Mobile Service Shutdown 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the ay-carumba dept.
itwbennett writes "In a filing to the FCC, Bay Area Rapid Transit general manager Grace Crunican defended last August's mobile shutdown, saying that 'a temporary disruption of cell phone service, under extreme circumstances where harm and destruction are imminent, is a necessary tool to protect passengers.' Taking the opposing position, digital rights groups, including Public Knowledge, Free Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, told the FCC (PDF) that 'wireless interruption will necessarily prohibit the communications of completely innocent parties — precisely those parties closest to the site where the emergency is located or anticipated.'"
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BART Defends Mobile Service Shutdown

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  • by SirBitBucket (1292924) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:30PM (#39864591)
    In the interest of the greater good...
    • by garcia (6573)

      You know, I'm no fun of poor public decision-making but honestly turning off the data in underground public transportation seriously does not seem like that big of a deal to me.

      Honestly, transit (air and subway) is one of the few places you could get some peace and quiet. While it's nice to have, it's not a necessity and whining about it being turned off to avert what they believed was going to be a bad event really probably wasn't all that terrible of an idea.

      That said, your note that you believe the slipp

      • by interval1066 (668936) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @12:04AM (#39864803) Homepage Journal

        You know, I'm no fun of poor public decision-making but honestly turning off the data in underground public transportation seriously does not seem like that big of a deal to me.

        Its increadibly inconviniant, and the airlines are starting to show how unnessessary it is. My own feeling is that they did that in an attempt to conceal the fact that BART was broken again. Had nothing to do with safety.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @01:04AM (#39865037)

          This is what I think anyone can object to. If anyone actually believed this was about, "extreme circumstances where harm and destruction are imminent", then it'd be understandable.

          But that's like... terrorist with a remote trigger wired to a mobile phone. Not, "Aw god dammit, a bunch of stupid college kids are gunna protest something again." Then you're just getting nasty about suppressing something you don't like, and you're inconveniencing a gajillion other people in the process.

        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by Viol8 (599362)

          "Its increadibly inconviniant,"

          Oh get over it. If you can't go a few hours without phone or net access you need to see a shrink.

      • by Mitreya (579078)

        turning off the data in underground public transportation seriously does not seem like that big of a deal to me.

        What about a total jamming of all wireless communication in the area? (which may or may not include medical devices). Where do you draw the line?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ColdWetDog (752185)

          OMG! Think of the Medical Devices!

          Give me a break. There are NO, repeat NO medical devices that require constant wireless communication with anything. Otherwise, people would simply keel over in the various Faraday cages that we surround ourselves with throughout the day.

          • by Mitreya (579078)

            OMG! Think of the Medical Devices!

            Ok, that's a little far-fetched.
            How about temporarily booting all parked cars in the vicinity? For everyone's safety, of course.

          • by hawguy (1600213)

            OMG! Think of the Medical Devices!

            Give me a break. There are NO, repeat NO medical devices that require constant wireless communication with anything. Otherwise, people would simply keel over in the various Faraday cages that we surround ourselves with throughout the day.

            How many faraday cages do you surround yourself with during the day? I can leave my apartment, take the elevator down to the parking garage, hop in my car, drive to work, take the elevator up to the 3rd floor and walk to my office, all without dropping my phone call. (ok, so I've never don't it all in one contiguous call, but I've used my phone on each of those segments individually)

            • I think this is separate from the core argument, I don't think anyone would make such a device. However, but a building with metal siding and few windows might be sufficient. Except for the fact that I installed a repeater, some parts of my shop would completely drop detectable signal, other parts too weak to let useful signal through. Some stores are like that too, I can get in the middle of the building and get no signal. This counts a Target, Walmart and a local grocery store. Anyone working in a wa

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        So you see no problems with the government doing so to deliberately silence political speech? There have been revolutions for less.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Temporarily turning off resources to contain mob behavior is not silencing political speech.

          • by fido_dogstoyevsky (905893) <axehandle&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @03:03AM (#39865445)

            Temporarily turning off resources to contain mob behavior is not silencing political speech.

            Unless the mob behaviour is protesting against the latest thing the government did but shouldn't have / didn't do but should have.

            Or is it really to prevent Western Spring?

            (Sorry, forgot to put my foil helmet on this morning)

          • Lets look at the other problem, lets say there are mulitple problems, a crash say, and somewhere else close by a mugging in progress. If communications are cut off, no 911 access, no alerting of police. You don't think that knowledge would foster mob action akin to the lootings that happened in cities during the second blackout. The first gave people the idea that and they were prepared to act the during the second.

            Here you would have people trapped, and cut off from help. You think that is wise. Bart is j

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Wait, What?!?!?!

        transit (air and subway) is one of the few places you could get some peace and quiet.

        What kind of screwed up neighborhood do you live in that you go to public places jammed with people to find a quite place? It's like your not even speaking English.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:02AM (#39866005)

        That said, your note that you believe the slippery slope is coming to reach to turning off the power is a bit much. Yeah you could have been exaggerating for fun but honestly, that's just silly.

        So, which is more useful - blocking communications between members of a dangerous mob or blocking communications of potential victims of that dangerous mob to do things like call 911?

        Of course that question assumes that you buy the claims that the mob is dangerous to anything more than the jobs of the people turning off the communications.

      • by Gription (1006467) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:35AM (#39866295)

        . . .

        Honestly, transit (air and subway) is one of the few places you could get some peace and quiet.

        . . .

        You've never been on BART have you?
        BART is the loudest subway I've ever seen and goes over 100 decibels repeatedly.
        After riding on quality systems in other places such as Munich I find that BART is just a technical embarrassment.

        As far as turning off the cell data coverage... BART consistently has the worst station announcements and the worst station signage. Without the data coverage the only way I can figure out which station I'm at half the time is to get the station map up on the cell and count stops from an identifiable station. I'm really at a loss how a system that big isn't internally audited for simple things like clarity and volume of station announcements. And the lack of clear, obvious, unmistakable station signage is just stupid negligence or apathy on the management's part. 5 minutes on the S-Bahn in Munich will show you how worse then just "Bad" BART is.

      • by Smallpond (221300)

        You know, I'm no fun of poor public decision-making but honestly turning off the data in underground public transportation seriously does not seem like that big of a deal to me.

        If they had temporarily banned TV news crews from covering the protests "in the interest of public safety" would that be not such a big deal? After all, they are very intrusive, block emergency access, etc.

      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        You know, I'm no fun of poor public decision-making but honestly turning off the data in underground public transportation seriously does not seem like that big of a deal to me.

        I'm sorry, I just don't see what possible "event" could warrant making the populace unable to communicate with each other, unless said "event" was created by the people who are turning off communications.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:43AM (#39866693)

        You are only listening to the BART side of the story.

        First, it's not just data that was shut down, but voice as well.

        Second. Imagine if a fire broke out, or you had a heart attack, or somebody was being attacked; How would you report it without your phone working?

        Third. The only reason BART shut it down was because they wanted to prevent any kind of protests against them (BART police shot a suspect at point blank range, while the suspect was pinned on the ground by multiple police officers).

        Fourth. interfearing with communications are the acts of totalitarian governments around the world, and it is not compatible with Freedom.

        • Fourth. interfearing with communications are the acts of totalitarian governments around the world, and it is not compatible with Freedom.

          Best.
          Misspelling.
          Evar.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Move along, nothing to see here.

        Well, if they shut off the power it'll be too dark to see anyway.

    • by Idbar (1034346) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @01:50AM (#39865173)
      I certainly hope she doesn't have family and face the need of calling them to inform them about a situation they may run into.
      I wonder if shutting all communications down in Manhattan in September 11 would had significantly helped as this person is claiming.
  • by RenHoek (101570) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:35PM (#39864621) Homepage

    sed 's/a temporary disruption of cell phone service, under extreme circumstances where harm and destruction are imminent/anything that could be bad PR/'

  • temporary disruption of cell phone service, under extreme circumstances where harm and destruction are imminent, is a necessary tool to protect passengers

    Even if we accept that premise - who decides if "harm and destruction" is imminent? Oh, that's right, BART decides that. A completely unbiased reviewer, they are.

    • So what if harm is imminent? Suppose a train derails or a terrorist bombs it, how is turning the phone supposed to stop the casualties?

      But hey I can help them I know first aid! Let's go through the DRSABCD steps.

      D - check for Danger.
      R - check for Response.
      S - Send for help .... does anyone have a working phone?

      In any major incident the emergency services would greatly appreciate having eyes and ears on the ground straight away which is exactly what their call centre provides.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Considering that Bart is tasked with the safety of their passengers who would you suggest would be a better choice? Bart did not cut off all protest; they just curtailed protest in a dangerous controlled area. Do you really want hundreds of agitated people crowded platforms with trains whizzing by? The protest could just as well have been done above ground in a much safer manner.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:42PM (#39864663)

    I don't know what the difference is. There is shitty, background service through about the Montgomery station, with blackout points down below the City (don't do that ride much), and MacArthur through Berkeley is a blackout. I know, bitching about spotty service, etc. but try to get anything done on the train. I just read and don't even bother.

    • Rarely take bart, only when I have business in Oakland, and every experience has been from inconvinant to pure hell.
      • Rarely take bart, only when I have business in Oakland, and every experience has been from inconvinant to pure hell.

        OK, BART isn't exactly an Uber cab but it's hardly "pure hell". I used to commute between Daly City and Embarcadero each morning and afternoon, and it was nothing if not unexciting. The trains departed on time and arrived on time, and the only inconvenience was that I couldn't refresh Twitter or text my wife between stations while underground. Now I frequently ride between Fruitvale and Embarcadero, and the least pleasant aspect is that you get jostled around a little bit on the way through Oakland. I even

        • I said "From INCONVIENIANT to pure hell.", its never been pure joy, and I've been stranded in Oakland once. OAKLAND. I like your kool-aid, make I have a cup?
          • by Anonymous Coward

            I like your spelling lessons, where do I sign up? So far in this thread you've spelt "inconvenient" 3 different ways, none of them correct, and once in ALL CAPS (because we all know CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL).

            And spare me the "I'm dyslexic", before you even start. Firefox has a spell-checker BUILT INTO IT these days. You're not dyslexic, you're just stupid. Also, I had a good friend at university who was (severely) dyslexic, and his misspellings were always consistent. Wrong, but consistently wro

  • by sjames (1099)

    If I use a personal jammer to silence that idiot yakking away at 120dB about who is sleeping with who and who has the funny sores on them, it's cool as long as I do it so that 'someone' doesn't kick his ass?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:54PM (#39864747)

    The real reason they shut off cell phone service was to disrupt the electronic communication of the organizers of the protest. If there was a 'safety' reason, it was to disrupt the protest in the interest of safety. Down that path lies the complete elimination of public assembly 'in the interest of safety'.

        I could see their argument if say they had a credible threat of a cellphone-triggered bomb, but trying to disrupt a protest's electronic communication does NOT cut it.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Think of this scenario (the one that BART is afraid would happen);
      1. Spotters are deployed to every Bart station and report the number of police at each station to a central command.
      2. The central command selects a number of stations and sends a text message to all spotters and protesters to converge on those stations.
      3. Hundreds of protesters converge on a small number of stations overloading the platforms.
      4. People get pushed off the overloaded platforms onto the tracks where they are hit by trains or kil

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Yes I can fully see how a smart terrorist would concoct a plot to trigger a bomb using an unreliable technology in one of the least reliable places it is likely to work.

      Terrorist 1: Today is our day of glory. Those American pigs will feel the full wrath of Allah's glory. Destroy the subway!
      Terrorist 2: (Dials Phone) Mwahahahahahaha!
      Sexy Voice: "The person you are calling is unavailable, if you would like to leave a message please do so after the beep." *beep*
      Terrorist 2: Hello bomb? Please go off when you g

    • by adolf (21054)

      Agreed. I'd like to add that even if disabling (read: literally simply turning off some BART-operated bi-directional amplifiers and/or a DAS) cell service does effectively disrupt the organization of an ongoing protest, that this simply moves the protesters into more conventional forms of organization.

      Simple audio and both licensed and unlicensed land mobile 2-way radio come to mind immediately as being absolutely useful for such a task. Leaders in the tunnel can communicate with intermediates outside th

    • What if they were protesting the protest? Would you deny them their right to protest too?

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Down that path lies the complete elimination of public assembly 'in the interest of safety'.

      Down that path? That is already the official policy of the US government where Occupy is concerned.

    • by slagheap (734182)
      Mod +10 - Thread Winner. Well said.
  • Yeesh, whadda think people did before cell phones in an emergency? I believe they used to think, and act (and in that order) -- not just dial 911 and then stand there with a cell phone camera watching the poor bastard suffer. I, for one, wish they'd make the change permanent: Imagine riding public transportation without some obnoxious mouth breather yelling at his girlfriend the entire trip, while you're packed in like sardines with other passengers. It'd be better than Chuck Norris descending from heaven a

    • by ooshna (1654125)

      Yeesh, whadda think people did before cell phones in an emergency?

      Umm run to a pay phone?

    • If I suddenly experience crushing chest pain, I want an EMT, not a helpful bystander. I also want one called as soon as possible, not as soon as someone can find a pay phone.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Subway cars have dedicated telephony. If there's an emergency, and you think that you by yourself on your own cellphone can do you any good (like every other passenger on the train, compared with the authorities in place to deal with it), you're horribly naive (and probably a libertarian.) Cellphones do not have mandated reliability characteristics like landlines, so no rules are being broken here. In the event of an emergency, the passengers will likely clog any femtocells, full cells, or repeaters regardl

    • If your subway car is on fire, what the heck is your cellphone going to do for you?

      "Goodbye, darling. I won't be coming home again. Tell the kids I love them."

      If nothing more practical than that, isn't it enough?

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      If you think all emergencies in and around Bart service areas occur within reach of the emergency callbox inside a train, and that those callboxes always work, I'm afraid you're the one being naive.

      Frankly Bart doesn't have a justification for cutting off service. Protests like this first occurred decades before cell phones were invented. If people really are rushing the station for a protest, guess what? Stations have doors that can be closed. Big heavy ones that can't be kicked down.

      • To turn off the cells in an emergency BART management must know about the emergency. They're quite capable of informing the appropriate emergency services themselves, & probably faster than some random member of the public could.

        • by MrEricSir (398214)

          Except that's not what happened. A protest is not "an emergency." Their justification was that too many people might enter the station, not that an emergency had happened.

  • Wasn't this whole situation kinda like flying. During take off and landing you are required to turn off all electronic devices, including your cellphones. The reason for this is to prevent interference with the plane's electronics, which could be life threatening. If their goal was to prevent deadly riots I believe that they are within their rights to turn off a service.

    If BART really wanted to they could end the contracts with the communication companies and then you wouldn't be able to use your cellp
  • In other words... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tlhIngan (30335) <<slashdot> <at> <worf.net>> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @01:22AM (#39865083)

    So for all transit operators out there, the apparent takeaway from all this is to not provide any form of cell service in weak areas. Offering a repeater that you can control, and disabling it can be considered a breech of freedoms and make you liable.

    Better to just avoid the whole issue and not do anything that'll make your commuters happier. If they want cell service, they can lobby their cell carriers to point antennas directed into the tunnels themselves. And nevermind emergencies - there's always the emergency phones in the trains.

    Anyone who wants to text and use their cellphone, can drive instead.

  • by moderators_are_w*nke (571920) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @02:39AM (#39865341) Journal

    My mobile never works on the London Underground, protest or no protest.

  • Wither goes local government, wither goes the federal government.

    Barring intervention from the supreme court.

    Given the feckless state of our current federal legislature, this is why it's important to elect the right person to the presidency: They will pick the next batch to decide this sort of thing.

  • There's a disconnect between principle and practice here. Authorities should absolutely be able to disable communications in "extreme circumstances where harm and destruction are imminent". A cell-phone triggered bomb on the train, for example.

    But what does that have to do with last August's shutdown? Harm and violence were not imminent in that case. You'd be hard-pressed to argue that violence was even *likely*.

    We have given the authorities tools to use to stop mass violence -- everything from telecomm

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @04:10AM (#39865625)

    Living this close to the former iron curtain, I have heard and read that kind of apologies before. Every time there was an unrest in one of those countries, something like this would be sprouted. "For the safety", "to protect order", "to keep people from misusing tools" and "what could have happened if we didn't step in".

    So far the difference is still that we don't get shot.

    At least not yet.

  • ...is it weird that a lame simpsons joke hasn't appeared yet?
  • If BART can do this then the bad guys have half their work done for them, they simply need to get control of this process when they want to cause even more mayhem.

  • It would seem to me that a cellphone would be an incredibly useful thing to have in an emergency situation... Especially so loved ones could contact you and see if you are in said situation...
  • They don't want you to upload videos of unarmed, handcuffed Black males the BART Police have shot in the back before they have had a chance to confiscate your cell phone.

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