FCC seeks comment on intentional wireless service interruptions

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking comment from the public and other interested parties on concerns and issues related to intentional interruptions of wireless services by government authorities for public safety-related reasons.

In a Public Notice issued in March 2012, the Commission staunchly reaffirmed its commitment to preserve the availability and openness of communication networks, as well as the constitutional rights of the citizenry. However, it also noted a number of unique public safety circumstances in which the temporary and localized interruption of wireless services might be considered by authorities.

According to the Commission, such circumstances could include the potential wireless detonation of an explosive device, or the organizing of potentially violent public activities by a so-called “flash mob.” Indeed, the Commission cites an actual incident in August 2011, in which transit officials in the San Francisco area temporarily suspended wireless services in selected Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations to deter protesters from organizing.

The Commission says that “there has been insufficient discussion, analysis, and consideration of the questions raised by intentional interruptions of wireless service by government authorities,” and that a period of public comment is warranted to explore the legal constraints and policy considerations of the issue.

Read the complete text of the Commission’s Public Notice on wireless service interruptions.