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FCC Asks for Guidance on Government Blocking of Mobile Services

March 1 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Federal Communications Commission asked for public comments on whether government officials may block mobile-phone service.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit agency in San Francisco drew “sharp criticism” for interrupting calls last year, and federal authorities are interested in whether legal or policy guidance is needed, the FCC said in a statement today.

BART said Aug. 12 that it limited phone service because protesters of a fatal shooting by agency police threatened to “use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART police.”

The FCC in its statement today said “any intentional interruption of wireless service, no matter how brief or localized, raises significant concerns and implicates substantial legal and policy questions.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in the statement that “our democracy, our society, and our safety all require communications networks that are available and open.”

Technology groups last year asked the FCC to declare that local governments may not block mobile-phone service.

“Such interference with communications has a long history of being used to suppress civil rights protests,” the groups said in a petition to the agency in August.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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