FOIA Info Reveals That BART Shut Down Cell Service With One Email To Telco Partner

from the it's-that-easy dept

Following the astounding and likely illegal decision by BART to shut down mobile phone service in stations in an attempt to block protesters from being able to communicate, Christopher Soghoian and Jacob Appelbaum filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the internal communications concerning this decision. Those communications have now been released and can be seen here (pdf) or embedded below.

The interesting stuff is closer to the end. Basically, someone from BART, Dirk Peters, sent a single email to ForzaTelecom, who must be BART’s partner in managing the cell service, saying that they needed it shut off:

Gentlemen,
The BART Police require the M-Line wireless from the Trans Bay Tube Portal to the Balboa Park Station, to be shut down today between 4pm & 8.
Steve , please help to notify all carriers.

The “Steve” in question appears to be Steve Dutto from Forza, who replied and sent an email to various telcos (including Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and MetroPCS), saying

I have spoken to or left a voicemail for most of you. We have been told that we must shut down the DAS system from the Oakland portal to the Balboa St. Station from 4-8 pm. We do not believe that any of the carriers need to do anything, the nodes will be turned down from the Civic Center Headend and then turned back up when given the ok from the BART police.

The emails also note that beyond cell service, BART also shut down its WiFi service — also via a single email from a BART representative to the WiFi partner, WiFi Rail, who noted that they were “happy to help in any way.” Nice of them.

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Comments on “FOIA Info Reveals That BART Shut Down Cell Service With One Email To Telco Partner”

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25 Comments
rubberpants says:

Re: Re:

You know that get’s me thinking. The government basically already has a de facto kill switch. The AT&T + NSA debacle shows that all the government has to do is call the major network companys, ask them nicely to shut down the Internet for national security reasons (or be investigated, taxed, and regulated into oblivion), all with the promise of ex post facto legal immunity from congress if it’s ever discovered. It sounds tin-foil-hat crazy, but you know it could happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m sure all the other passengers on Rosa’s bus were pretty pissed by the delay she caused as well. Thank goodness that little fiasco didn’t lead to other sorts of social upheaval or anything. The inconvenience and personal discomfort for everyone would have been just awful!

Or in other words: I’m so sorry free speech is such a burden for you. Perhaps you should try living without it for a week or two.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

In all fairness, I assume they were talking about the earlier protest which gave BART the idea of heading off the second protest by shutting cell service. I’m assuming this because I vaguely remember most people saying the protests delayed their commute for about an hour.

The comment is still short-sighted for measuring inalienable rights against an hour’s convenience. I could be wrong, though. It might be dumb for two reasons.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yes if only those Protesters actually stood for something instead of doing it for shits and giggles. If only there was some kind of, UNDERLYING MESSAGE if you will in their actions that they were trying to communicate to you in a nonviolent way instead of blocking off the system for no better reason than protesters are all evil and need to be detained in camps.

Oh well, no such reason exists I’m afraid. I am so terribly sorry for your delay in commute time because of these wicked people.

Viln (profile) says:

In defense of the carriers, they were not told why the request was being made to shut down the DAS. It could have been technical in nature. In my mind, all responsibility and culpability goes back to BART. If they were appropriately punished for this abuse of power, providers would not need to shoulder the burden of determining what is or is not an appropriate request. Saying that providers should be less responsible for requests for contracted service changes is much different than providers being asked to furnish personal details without legal authority and due process.. which they should be burdened with refusing. A better comparison would be a power utility being asked by the FBI to shut down power to a city block…. if it turns out it wasn’t terrorists or a hostage situation but rather an anti-FBI conspiracy theorist convention, the FBI director and associated agents should be in jail, not the power company CEO and technicians.

Daddy Warbucks says:

Duh, Dems R Big Govt

Dems used to fight The Man! Now they are The Man!

Dems want big Govt to rule your life, that’s the Progress agenda. The Nanny State is their way to “Protect You from Yourself,” and crush your Constitutional Rights to grow their influence.

California is rank with Govt Unions run amuck. Socialization of Risk is their motto and your Individual Rights listed in the Constitution are “in their way.”

My favorite is their need to dictate what can you ingest because Big Govt is going to be paying your future Medicare bill.

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