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Padilla Bill to Protect Access to Wireless Communication Services Headed to Governor’s Desk
September 06, 2013
Legislation is in Response to BART Shutdown of Wireless Services
Sacramento – Senate Bill 380, a bill to prevent the arbitrary shutdown or interruption of cell phone service was given final legislative approval today by the State Senate. It is now on its way to the Governor’s desk.
Senate Bill 380, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), was in response to the Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency (BART) shutdown of mobile services for three hours during public protests in August 2011. The BART Board subsequently adopted a policy allowing a service interruption under certain circumstances, but with no court review. BART’s actions led the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to open a proceeding on wireless service shutdowns. Public comments filed by numerous parties stated that, in nearly every case, a shutdown of wireless service creates more public safety problems than it solves because first responders cannot communicate effectively and the public is not able to call 911 or receive emergency alerts.
“For decades, California law has required a court order to interrupt or shutdown traditional telephone service. SB 380 would extend these protections to the modern mobile communications network which is critical to public safety and a key element of a free and open society,” said Senator Alex Padilla.
“During an emergency, shutting down cell service prevents the public from being able to call 911, receive emergency wireless alerts, and locate family members. It can also impair first responders’ ability to communicate,” said Senator Padilla. “The tragic events in Boston earlier this year, remind us of the vital importance of wireless service to first responders, victims, and families during emergencies,” added Padilla.
An early report during the Boston bombings was that authorities shutdown cell service to prevent remote detonation of additional bombs. This was retracted with later reports that first responders and wireless carriers were asking people to text and email to check on loved ones, so there would be sufficient voice capacity for first responders at the scene.
Specifically, SB 380 maintains a statewide standard allowing service interruption only as directed by a court order based on probable cause. The bill preempts conflicting local policies. The bill’s provisions are technology neutral and apply to any service used for calling 911, including wireless and Internet-based services. The bill would add a process for a shutdown in exigent circumstances followed by court review to determine whether free speech and public safety standards are met.
Changes from last year’s bill preserve law enforcement tools to protect public safety in hostage and barricade situations, and clarify the standard for when an emergency shutdown is allowed without prior court review.
“Wireless service is an extremely valuable tool to enhance public safety during emergencies. This bill establishes standards to prevent the arbitrary shutdown or interruption of wireless service in California,” said Senator Padilla.