BART board mulls nation's first cell service disruption policy

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BART board member Lynette Sweet has been a vocal critic of the agency's decision to cut off cell service to thwart protests.
BART

A special meeting of BART's Board of Directors yesterday (Wed/25) was the first step in crafting a policy outlining the circumstances under which BART staff would be authorized to cut off cell phone service in its train stations. The resulting policy will be the first in the nation, and is likely to act as a model for other government agencies to address the issue.

While BART's top management defended the suspension of cell phone service to disrupt a protest planned for August 11, BART's board was divided over whether the suspension of cell service to prevent a protest was justified and what would constitute a justification for cutting cell service in the future.

“This group was encouraging, promoting and inciting illegal behavior on our platform,” BART police Chief Kenton Rainey reminded the board.

“Well, there is illegal activity every day at BART. The response does not feel proportional enough for justification,” responded BART director Tom Radulovich,

BART director Robert Raburn echoed Radulovich's concerns. “Neither speculation about a protest, nor mere disruption of train service, nor other illegal activity by itself constitutes a risk to passenger safety that would warrant interrupting cell service. We must guard First Amendment freedom of speech, and this will become a landmark case,” said Raburn.

Staff and union representatives stressed that public safety was always BART's top concern.

Officials from BART's three unions generally agreed that the shutting of cell phone service was inappropriate, but admonished protesters for conducting protests on the platforms where they say there is a safety risk due to crowding.
“I applaud the individuals, the union supports the individuals who organize, for I understand organizing. I understand protesting,” said Austin Thomas, who represents BART employees from SEIU Local 1021. “But, I would like to see that this forum be the forum to bring your protest, to have your grievances redressed here.”

“The bottom line for BART is that downtown San Francisco at 5 pm is the maximum stress point at the maximum stress time. It's all about public safety and keeping the trains moving,” stressed BART Assistant General Manager of Operations Paul Oversier.

“We keep going around with these safety issues, but do not be confused: We do not have to have one or the other,” urged director Lynette Sweet, who referenced the 1955 case Pike vs Southern Bell Telegraph.

“In this case, a gentleman by the name of Bull Connors ordered Southern Bell to remove the telephone of one Lewis Pike, described by Mr. Connors as a negro of questionable character who is known to be using his phone for unspecified illegal purpose. That is not where we as BART want to go. We don't want to tell people, or signify, or specify, that you can't talk, that you don't have the ability to talk.”

But BART board Vice President John McPartland took a harder stance. saying the action was justified, and BART need to post signs informing the public of possible disruptions in cell service due to safety issues.

“This is the beginning of a review from a national perspective on this issue. I, for one, think we should maintain our ability to control cell service until we have it looked at from a legislative perspective.” said McPartland.

“Not all free speech is protected. There are some very narrow exceptions, and I believed this to be one of them,” Oversier insisted.

“If we are ever going to shut off cell phone service, ever, it should be for the most valid reasons that I equate with 9-11 [terrorist attack] level. Not the protests that we thought were going to happen on August 11th. We can't do that,” cautioned Sweet, who wondered out loud if BART couldn't just apologize for making a mistake and move on.

Members of the public present for the meeting remained dubious about BART creating policy concerning cell phone disruption at all.

Speaking on behalf of protest group No Justice No BART, an activist identifying himself only as Christof told the board, “We are not asking you to fix anything. We just simply don't trust you to run a police force at all. We are not asking you to improve your free speech policy, we already have a free speech policy – it's called the constitution.”

He expressed doubts as to whether BART should be trusted with the power to cut cell phone service. “What is the first thing that your police officers did on the Fruitvale platform after they shot Oscar Grant in the back? They tried to confiscate video footage taken by passengers,” Christof accused.

That footage from the New Years Eve shooting of Grant by officer Johannes Mehserle was the beginning of BART's problems with anti-police brutality protesters.

Other speakers from the public had similar concerns about BART overreaching its authority.

“The proper place to present the arguments we have just heard is not to this board, but in a court room before a judge considering a motion or injunction. Instead of using those existing legal mechanisms, you have taken matters into your own hands as vigilantes,” said Edward Hasbrook representing the Identity Project.

BART officials expect the new policy will be crafted and voted on within a month. They say the new policy will be vetted through BART attorneys, the ACLU, and and BART's civilian advisory committee. But they cautioned that BART could not envision every emergency that would warrant shutting off of cellular service as they craft their forthcoming policy, so the policy would include some flexibility at the discretion of BART management.

Both the California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, who regulate cell phone providers, are already examining the legality of BART's actions. As an afterthought, at the close of the meeting, Sweet urged the board to consult with those agencies over the policy before it is implemented.

BART has only provided cell service in its stations for a short time. While BART is under no legal obligation to provide phone service, once they began providing service they fall under the jurisdiction of the FCC, which regulates cell service nationally.

Speaking in Denver to CNET, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said the matter was still under investigation.

"What the heck happened, what precedent does it set, were there any laws that were broken?" McDowell questioned. "Let's continue with the investigation. We'll draw conclusions after we have all the facts."

Comments

a free, discretionary service if as a result they are open to this kind of vindictive persecution?

Wouldn't it be far simpler and less risky for agencies like BART to simply refuse point-blank to EVER provide any non-core service just in case someone sues you for ever removing it for cause? Or even because it no longer makes commercial sense? After all, BART has no commercial, moral or legal reason to provide cell service.

No good deed goes unpunished and this is typical of the culture of entitlement that we have bred. All this "War on BART" will achieve is that other quasi-govermental agencies will never make the mistake of ever trying to make their consumers happy by providing something that might come back to bite you.

So well done, protestors. No transit agency will ever offer cell or wifi again - just in case a bunch of self-absorbed losers will claim it as a constitutional entitlement.

Pathetic.

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 25, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

So much for "moving on".

Posted by M. Worrall on Aug. 25, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

I understand that BART profits from lucrative contractual agreements relating to the cell service. Other transit authorities provide cell service, without even having the ability to shut off the service. What makes BART above the law? When liberals adopt liberal constructions on restricting rights, the conservatives appear more compassionate. Cheers!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

gun grab with prop H a number of years ago.

The opinion of Guardian opportunistic civil libertarians is worthless.

Turning off the phones was dumb, but no dumber than a host of schemes that the Bay Guardian has cheered into failure before various courts.

Posted by meatlock on Aug. 25, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

Sounds good to me.

Why are you arguing against one?
Just because a newspaper you don't like favors it, but not the other?

Are you against Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, like good old Pault, or are you for them?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

@PaulT All I have to say to you is "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety"

You deserve neither sir because you are obviously to daft to understand there was a violation. BART is most definitely a government agency and once the use of such services is extended they cannot be taken away in anticipation of a protest. This is a clear violation of the Supreme Court ruling that BART claimed to be upholding.

Furthermore, it sets a very dangerous precedent that must be stopped now before others look to BARTs move and decide they can do the same to the American people and push the envelope further.

Posted by Anonymous on Aug. 25, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

PaulT is the same person who has described this important topic as a non-issue. Yet he has continued to spend hours writing posts after posts whining, moaning, complaining about the protesters and belittling them. If he really believed this were a non-issue, he would write nothing about it, or very little. His actions betray his statements. Hypocrisy. He talks about how people are sick of the protesters. That's irrelevant. It's moot because the U.S. Constitution is in place to protect the minority (the protesters) from the majority (the self-absorbed sheep). I suspect that many of the sheep who claim to be sick of the protesters have never, ever heard of the Constitution, nor would they care about it after one educated them about it. That document and the First Amendment would only be important to them when they wanted/needed to use it.

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

don't understand why this isn't a significant issue. Mostly it's sufficient to simply debunk their logic and expose their legal flaws.

You'd be better advised to worry about how you spend your time. My small investment here is limited to ensuring that no visitor to this place is deluded into thinking this story has any legs.

And for all your personal attacks, you have faield to address a single one of the substantive arguments I developed.

But fear not; my work here is almost done.

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

Why it is important to you what other people care in regards to the importance of this story? People will think what they want, dude. You haven't learned that yet? I'm here expressing my opinion with no intention or illusion of changing anyone's mind. You're here to argue; I'm not. I don't get off on arguing with people. For the most part, it is a grand waste of time.

"But fear not; my work here is almost done."

But fear not? Now it sounds like you're quoting a bible verse and you're on some sort of crusade. What you call "work here" is nothing but right-wing trolling, and didn't you say you were done with this issue days ago? Hypocrite. Yet you keep masturbating about it. Frankly, upon reflection, I think you're on the wrong part of the site. Go up to the top of the page and click on "Blogs" and then "Sex SF." That's where you belong. Check out this article:

"Getting to the bottom of Anal Sex Month
Open wide, sweet cheeks: August is for anal."

Maybe that will do something for you to remove that snarl that I get from your posts.

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

This is their Holy War, fought on the internets.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

What are those?
That BART isn't a government agency?
You were roasted on that six times, because your arguments were idiotic.

What are your other "substantive arguments"?
The ones where BART officials or the world press proved you wrong?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

that just happens to be technically a quasi-government entity should NEVER provide any free communication facilities like cell service or wifi, because a bored bunch of self-absorbed losers somewhere will one day demand it as an "Constitutional entitlement".

Thanks for screwing it up for all of us.

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 6:48 am

BART is a governmental agency. This is a fact.
You're discomfort with this FACT makes it no less of a fact.

"The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District is a special GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY
created by the State of California consisting of Alameda County, Contra Costa County, and the City and County of San Francisco. "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_Area_Rapid_Transit

BART is not a "business".
It is a Government Agency that is owned b,y and answers to the people of the United States of America.

BART does not "just happens to be technically" anything, other than a Government Agency that is owned by and answers to the people of the United States of America.

BART is not a "quasi-government entity".
It is a Government Agency created by, and responsible to, the taxpayers.

Your continuing obsessive insistence that BART is something other than what it obviously, factually is - a Government Agency, is embarrassing to witness and is a clear sign of some sort of mental illness.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 11:55 am

"incident" is that public entities and agencies will now be extremely reluctant to EVER give it's users any kind of free extra, out of fear of having it held against them.

It's one thing for me to do you a favor. It's quite another thing for you to infer that that immediately becomes a mandatory, ever-lasting constitutional obligation and entitlement. Particularly when the service in question is not core to the agency's function.

Luckily this story has margely fizzled out outside of SFBG. The 15 minutes of fame is receding, and most of the articles I've read in the last 48 hours are about how commuters and voters are sick of these whiney protestors.

It'll be forgotten in a few weeks, except maybe here. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

They provide services paid for by taxpayers.

You really don't understand how America works, do you?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

Just a quick fact to clear up a readers question ...

Cell service was installed and is provide by BART because it was felt in the wake of the September 11th that it would heighten security against terrorist attacks and would improved personal security by deterring crime.

Shawn Gaynor

Posted by Shawn Gaynor on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 8:02 am

Thanks for your report, and for mentioning my comments.

Speakers at the hearing were told we would be limited to 3 minutes each, but I've posted a somewhat amplified version of my statement, including links to the laws I cited and which BART violated, on the Identity Project blog at:

http://papersplease.org/wp/2011/08/25/bart-doesnt-understand-the-duties-...

FWIW, my name is spelled Hasbrouck, not Hasbrook, which is why readers may have had difficulty finding this if they searched by my name.

Posted by Edward Hasbrouck on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 11:54 am

Thanks for your report, and for mentioning my comments.

Speakers at the hearing were told we would be limited to 3 minutes each, but I've posted a somewhat amplified version of my statement, including links to the laws I cited and which BART violated, on the Identity Project blog at:

http://papersplease.org/wp/2011/08/25/bart-doesnt-understand-the-duties-...

FWIW, my name is spelled Hasbrouck, not Hasbrook, which is why readers may have had difficulty finding this if they searched by my name.

Posted by Edward Hasbrouck on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 11:59 am

Thanks for your report, and for mentioning my comments.

Speakers at the hearing were told we would be limited to 3 minutes each, but I've posted a somewhat amplified version of my statement, including links to the laws I cited and which BART violated, on the Identity Project blog at the link from my name with this comment.

FWIW, my name is spelled Hasbrouck, not Hasbrook, which is why readers may have had difficulty finding this if they searched by my name.

Posted by Edward Hasbrouck on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

Your blogs states:

"As a common carrier, BART is required to provide transportation to all would-be passengers, just as a telecommunications common carrier is required to transport all would-be customers’ messages. A common carrier simply has no authority to refuse service to selected customers."

That's correct. Verizon or Sprint cannot refuse to transmit messages selectively.

But as you state, BART's obligation is to provide transportation, not messages.

The only interference with BART's requirement to provide transit was from the protestors.

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

All,

Time to shun PaulT.

It's just a common troll which throws out marginally believable but cartoonishly reactionary arguments just to inflame others into -endless- juvenile debates with it.

Time to cut it off so that it has no food.

don't feed the troll...

Posted by vigilante on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

The Guardian has a new comment policy which is designed to encourage genuine debate and civil discourse. Dismissing alternative viewpoints as the product of a "troll" isn't in keeping with the spirit of this new policy. Please debate Paul's ideas and stop trying to personalize the debate here. Chairman Mao said "Speak clearly and present the facts." If you have facts countering what Paul's saying then present them.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

"Next shit-fer-brains?"
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 16, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2010/11/12/only-miracle-can-save-steve-li-now

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

I appreciate The Guardian's new comment policy and would ask you to consider joining in this new spirit of civility and honest dialogue. Together we can make this forum a better place for discussion than it has been in the past.

Hope you're having a good evening so far.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

Can't we all just be civil, like the saintly 'sister snapples'?

Tell me, who are you going to skewer with your shallow self righteousness next?

You're as about civil as our sidewalks post Prop L.

Posted by vigilante on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

The fact that you took the time to type that means something. I hope we can work together to develop a harmonious and productive comment section here at the SFBG based on a mutual exchange of ideas - even when we don't agree.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

If these so-called peace officers would stop killing citizens there would be no need for protests. The problem is that BART has lost control of its police force; it needs to disarm all of them, and fire any BART cop who won't work without a gun at their hip.

Solve the real problem, don't get distracted into arguing about who can cut off cell
service when the real issue is BART cops hold life-or-death power and do so unwisely.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

'Guest' the cellphone issue is huge.

Without the assured legal freedom to use our phones to film the police and immediately report/broadcast what they are doing, we would be severely hamstrung in our ability to hold them accountable.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

to record something with your phone.

Posted by meatlock on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 6:20 pm

That would change the debate considerably. If you can present evidence this has occurred then please present that here. I'd be very interested in knowing if that happened and it would go a long way towards changing my opinion on this issue.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

I am going to rethink my position on this issue thanks to that information you so kindly provided. I appreciate it.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

"Luckily this story has margely fizzled out outside of SFBG. "
Posted by PaulT on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

The Real Safety Threat? BART Encourages Violence Against Protesters‎
Bay Area Indymedia - 6 hours ago
by dave id After trying to pump up passenger anger against demonstrators since the non-protest on August 11th, such as in the BART-TV propaganda video here, ...
Highly Cited: Anonymous Circulates NSFW Photos Of BART Spokesman Linton Johnson‎ SF Weekly (blog)
In-Depth: BART's Cell-Service Cuts: Not Egypt, But Not Quite America Either‎ The Atlantic
Blog: Anonymous Leaks Nude Images of BART Spokesman‎ PCWorld (blog)
Dslreports - eSecurity Planet
all 55 news articles »
The Atlantic

SFPD releases BART protesters' names, cities‎
San Francisco Chronicle - Vivian Ho - 22 hours ago
SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco police released the names Thursday of 35 people who were arrested during Monday evening's anti-BART protests that led to the ...
In-Depth: BART officials craft policy for cutting cellphone service‎ Los Angeles Times
BART board mulls nation's first cell service disruption policy‎ San Francisco Bay Guardian
SFPD plans to act quicker at future BART protests‎ KGO-TV
Patch.com - TG Daily
all 265 news articles »
CTV.ca
Protest Mondays? More BART demonstrations in store‎
Crosscurrents from KALW News - 8 hours ago
By Casey Miner Monday night's anti-BART protests closed two downtown stations during rush hour, for the second week in a row. Yesterday, the BART board took ...
BART Phone Blackout: Did the SF Transit Agency Violate Free Speech ...‎ Citizen Media Law Project (blog)
San Francisco Subway a Battleground for Digital Free Speech‎ The Epoch Times
Does Free Speech Include Hacking and Mayhem?‎ Family Security Matters
all 5 news articles »

http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=bart&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF...

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

"Idiot" is not inline with The Guardian's new comment policy - a policy which I support and which if we all make an effort to abide by will make this forum a more harmonious and productive place for everyone.

Your links are great and demonstrate your substantive disagreements with Paul's arguments, yet you insist on personalizing the issue by referring to Paul in a derogatory fashion. Let's make The Guardian's new comment policy a success. Everyone is strengthened by healthy, harmonious and productive discussion - free of rancor.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

"Next shit-fer-brains?"
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 16, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2010/11/12/only-miracle-can-save-steve-li-now

Posted by Guest on Aug. 27, 2011 @ 9:08 am

That sounds just like Arthur Evans when I used to read his shit. The signature give-away is the "Let's make..." part as well as "Everyone is strengthened by healthy, harmonious and productive discussion - free of rancor." That's Arthur Evans. No doubt. I know his shit when I read it.

Arthur Evans = Right on Sister Snapples? For some time, I've suspected that the "trolls" were all just one person (meaning there's only one troll).

Then they write: ""Idiot" is not inline with The Guardian's new comment policy." Well, any reprimand should come from the BG staff, not from that Snapples (or whatever his/her name is today.) That person is way out-of-line for trying to moderate and reprimand anyone, especially considered his/her rank history on here. The other day he/she talked about "turning over a new leaf." I wrote at the time: Hell, it's going to take more than turning over a leaf. You need a new tree.

An observation: This new Snapples thing comes across as a newly born-again christian type where "butter wouldn't melt in her/his mouth." Anyone ever see that episode of Mama's Family (the spinoff from the Carol Burnett Show in the 1980s) where Eunice was listening to tapes she got at the mall about "The Power Of Positive Thinking?" It didn't matter what anyone said to Eunice when she was glued to those tapes, she was just as sweet and syrupy and sugary regardless of what anyone said to her. Well, this Snapples thing reminds me of how Eunice acted in that episode. Like a completely different person than she had been. Because in other time, Eunice would have decked them.

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 27, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

Or maybe not, since you're wrong.

Nonetheless I appreciate your contribution and admire the the amateur detective sleuthing you're engaging in. As well as your reference to "Mama's Family."

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Aug. 27, 2011 @ 9:56 pm

A friend of mine sent me this link from The Atlantic Magazine. Those who consider this topic a "non-issue" can just move on or click off:

BART's Cell-Service Cuts: Not Egypt, But Not Quite America Either
Aug 26 2011

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/08/barts-cell-service...

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 27, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

I understand that BART profits from lucrative contractual agreements relating to the cell service. Other transit authorities provide cell service, without even having the ability to shut off the service. What makes BART above the law? When liberals adopt liberal constructions on restricting rights, the conservatives appear more compassionate. Cheers!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

I understand that BART profits from lucrative contractual agreements relating to the cell service. Other transit authorities provide cell service, without even having the ability to shut off the service. What makes BART above the law? When liberals adopt liberal constructions on restricting rights, the conservatives appear more compassionate. Cheers!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

Censoring mobile phones; the West clamping down:

BART Phone Blackout: Did the S.F. Transit Agency Violate Free Speech Protections?
August 27, 2011
By Justin Silverman
http://tinyurl.com/4xprv57

Sydney Morning Herald:
August 15, 2011
Censoring mobiles and the net: how the West is clamping down
http://tinyurl.com/3dkmq7z

We'd shut off mobiles again, says US transport official after protest
August 17, 2011
http://tinyurl.com/3vtbdjp

And I won't be surprised when this happens here in the U.S. Empire:

Britain enacts blanket ban on protests
Sat Aug 27, 2011
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/196108.html

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 28, 2011 @ 9:50 pm

In my earlier post, I wrote, "And I won't be surprised when this happens here in the U.S. Empire." Of course, this is really already happening here:

Top NASA climate scientist arrested at White House
http://tinyurl.com/3qphxp3

"One of the nation's foremost experts on climate change was arrested outside the White House on Monday morning after he joined a protest against a planned Canadian tar sands pipeline.

Dr. James Hansen (pictured), who runs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was arrested along with 139 other protesters taking part in a series of demonstrations against the planned $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport 500,000 barrels of crude per day from America's neighbor to the north all the way to the Gulf coast of Texas.

So far, 521 activists have been arrested since their first protest on Saturday, Aug. 21. Also included in Monday's arrests were Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford, president of CREDO Mobile Michael Kieschnick, 350.org Executive Director May Boeve and many others."

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

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