Dexcomm Blog

BART Shuts down Cell Service and Raises Free Speech Questions

August 16, 2011

BART transit phone jamming - photo by Eric Risberg/AP
BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) blocked cell phone transmissions last Thursday as an attempt to disrupt communications of protest organizers.  The protesters were planning on disrupting BART operations to illustrate their outrage in the July 3rd shooting death of Charles Blair Hill by BART police.


The shutdown of communications is being compared to the Mubarak regime techniques recently used against protesters in Egypt, and is being considered by many ‘A Major First Amendment Problem’.  BART’s decision has also lead to more protest and disruptions of service.


BART authorities contend that their decision was based completely on the safety of the public and the dangers of overcrowding the station platforms where people must board subway trains.


BART’s chief spokesman, Linton Johnson, was quoted Monday afternoon. “There is a constitutional right to safety, A lot of people are forgetting the fact that there are multiple constitutional rights and are focusing solely on one.  BART is obligated to protect them all”


Here are some leading news stories reporting on both views of this free speech debate.


http://www.npr.org/2011/08/16/139656641/cell-service-shutdown-raises-free-speech-questions


http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/127783668.html


http://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2011/news20110812.aspx


http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/08/12/officials-interrupt-phone-service-to-stall-protest/


What are your personal views on this; is it appropriate to remove first amendment rights in the name of public safety? If so, where is the line drawn, and is the removal of cell phone communications actually an infringement of the first amendment?   These are important questions to be resolved and applied to modern technology as our population quickly moves towards mobile technology as preferred methods of communication.  Are mobile devices, sms, facebook, and twitter all protected under the first amendment?


As a HIPAA compliant communications company, we at Dexcomm are well aware that the misuse of these mentioned forms of communication are punishable under the stringent privacy regulations laid out in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Does this then imply that the lawful use of these technologies should to be protected?




Dexcomm is a Louisiana-based corporation that provides answering services to businesses and service agencies across the United States. We have been open since 1954, employ a staff of roughly 50 people, and our average client retention rate is 10+ years.

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