BART's decision to cut off wireless service to disrupt a protest drew Federal scrutiny on Monday, as the FCC has decided to look into the matter.

The Federal Communications Commission announced on Monday night that it will investigate the Bay Area Rapid Transit system concerning the San Francisco-area public transportation agency's decision to temporarily stop cell service.

"Any time communications services are interrupted, we seek to assess the situation," said FCC spokesman Neil Grace in a statement. "We are continuing to collect information about BART’s actions and will be taking steps to hear from stakeholders about the important issues those actions raised, including protecting public safety and ensuring the availability of communications networks."

The FCC does not explicitly address the matter that led to BART's actions, which was a planned protest over recent shootings by BART police officers. According to BART, the decision was made to protect customers during the rush hour commute -- by depriving protest organizers of the tools of communication.

"Organizers planning to disrupt BART service on August 11, 2011 stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police," reads the transit agency's official statement. "A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators. BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform."

"It's no longer a BART issue, it's a nationwide issue and the public has to weigh in on it," said BART Board President Bob Franklin to the L. A. Times, which also stated that the transit agency had contacted the FCC .

"That's the difference between our country and other countries," Franklin said. "We will have a public dialogue on this and talk about an appropriate use, if it is appropriate."

 

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