Friday, August 12, 2011

Unprecedented: Police Shut Down Cell Phone Service To Stop Peaceful Protest



Never in the history of the United States has law enforcement stopped free flowing channel of communication of American citizens.

But in the Bay Area of California, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police disrupted cell phone service for all cell phone carriers on their underground transit system to stop coordination of a scheduled protest regarding a police shooting.

The Federal communication law spells it out explicitly and prohibits cell phone jamming, but BART police officials went around the Federal Communication law by turning off the power to the cell phone antennas.

The protest was peaceful so its bewildering why BART would take such measures. Americans recently have witnessed dictators on TV in Middle Eastern countries disrupt their citizens communications; but now in America?

Above ground cell phone service was not interrupted, but this was a very bad idea and one that is probably unconstitutional; even though BART did not jam cell phone signals, they deliberately killed cell phone signals to keep protesters from organizing their event. A BART director said that he did not feel comfortable with the decision, but they wanted to keep people from possibly getting pushed in front of trains if many people showed up for the protest.

It makes me say what the heck is going on in California, because on January 3, 2011, the California State Supreme Court ruled that police can seize and search your cell phone without a warrant. See link One can password protect their cell phone and the police have the right to ask for it; and you have the right to refuse. 

A BART transit spokesperson stated the following: "Free speech happens outside the fare gates. That is the free speech zone," 

This is another situation where laws have to catch up to technology.

It’s interesting that 30 years ago this week, IBM marketed the personal computer. Since the inception of the original idea of the personal computer, Handheld Smartphones which are much many times more powerful than the first IBM PC, and is in the hands of billions of people all over the world. This year we have seen Smartphones help oust dictators in real-time.

Cost to own the first IBM PC: Under $3,000.

Cost to own a much more powerful smartphone: under $100; with a 2 year wireless contract of course :-).

I wonder what technology will be like in another 30 years to make the iPad look so ancient like the first personal computer does.

All I can say is that technology evolution and innovation by mankind is relentless and breathtaking.


BART: 'We Were Within Our Legal Right' to Shut Down Cell Service




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