This Thursday, the US Federal Communications Commission is looking for comments on if it is ok for Law Enforcement agencies or public government agencies to shut off Cellular networks. They posed the question by saying, “insufficient discussion, analysis and consideration of the questions raised by intentional disruption of wireless service by government authorities.”
Quite simply, this is an abridgment of fundamental American rights to not have property rights restricted. Consumers pay for 24/7 access to their cell phones and data service. Such a government intrusion on their contracted for service with a wireless provider is not only illegal but unwise. Any government agency looking to block communications is also running into serious constitutional issues. Freedom of speech, rights to privacy and more are impacted by this issue. In a constitutional democracy, any curtail of rights must be fought against.
An example of this in action was when BART shut down mobile phone service in San Francisco subway stations in an effort to block a planned protect from happening. There, people had planned to block subway cars in a protest of transit police. In this scenario, BART blocked free speech rights when they shut down the mobile service and censored communication or coverage of this event while it occurred.
Implications of this also go further, as mobile communications blocking could prevent emergency services like 911 calls, but also a severe restriction on political dissent and free speech.
Essential Services via Cell Phone and mobile devices are crucial, but so is the ability for free assembly or to have coverage of politically sensitive events as the occur. Should Occupy Wall Street be prevented from reporting on crack downs of their protests? no.
This is an issue that needs to be looked at and people need to protect against any and all interference with Cell Phone networks. Any such interference is censorship, illegal and has serious ramifications. If America would allow such, what would separate that from similar activities in China, Egypt or other human rights challenged regimes.
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