[AfrICANN-discuss] Who should control the off switch for mobile phone networks?

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Fri Mar 2 18:42:06 SAST 2012

Who should control the off switch for mobile phone networks?


By Mari Silbey <http://www.smartplanet.com/search?q=mari+silbey> | March 2,
2012, 7:17 AM PST


 The FCC is asking for
whether authorities should have the right to interrupt wireless phone
service in the interest of public safety. Although the FCC notes that 70%
of 911 calls now come from mobile phones, it also raises law enforcement
concerns that mobile phones can be used for more nefarious purposes like
triggering an explosion, or organizing the “activities of a violent flash

summer, the issue of interrupting cell networks became part of national
debate when Bay Area Rapid Transit temporarily shut down wireless
select BART stations. BART authorities reasoned that organizers were
planning to coordinate a protest during rush hour that could potentially
lead to unsafe conditions for commuters. However, a public backlash against
BART had civil liberties advocates crying censorship and claiming that the
transportation agency had violated users’ First Amendment rights.

As of yesterday, the FCC says it wants to hear more detail on the pros and
cons of allowing organizations to interrupt mobile phone service. Here are
a few of the questions the FCC is posing:

   - What are examples of previous intentional interruptions of wireless
   service for public safety reasons, and what policies or rationales have
   public agencies developed that support or provide guidance on such
   - Under what circumstances, if any, is it appropriate for a public
   agency to interrupt wireless service? How effective is an interruption
   likely to be in achieving the purpose of the interruption?
   - What are the risks of an interruption of wireless service?
   - Which public institutions, agencies, or officials have or should have
   the authority to request an of interruption wireless service?
   - What are the laws or regulations that affect the legality of an
   interruption, and what are the circumstances that are likely to render an
   interruption permissible or impermissible?

 The request for comment could generate some heated discussion on
government authority in an age of instant communications. There’s a lot of
power in being able to flip an off switch, particularly when more and more
of our devices and systems are connected and interdependent.

Interested parties can submit comments by paper to FCC headquarters in
Washington, or file comments online using the Commission’s Electronic
Comment Filing System <http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/> (ECFS).

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