CDT, Public Knowledge, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation led a coalition of civil liberties organizations in filing comments in the FCC's Inquiry into wireless service interruptions. Prompted in part by the Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority's shutdown last August of cell service in BART stations to prevent organizers from protesting BART, the FCC initiated an inquiry into whether government or private actors can lawfully act to interrupt wireless service in emergency situations.
Analyzing wireless interruption through constitutional and statutory lenses, we concluded in our original comments that neither government -- be it state, local, or federal -- nor private parties can permissibly interrupt wireless service, and that such interruptions will likely do more harm than good in emergency contexts.
These reply comments supplement our original comments and reply to other comments filed in the proceeding. In particular, these reply comments highlight our conclusion that the government's current secret protocol for wireless shutdowns, Standard Operating Procedure or "SOP" 303, fails to meet the requirements of the First Amendment, as does proposed California legislation meant to regulate wireless service interruptions.
Some degree of government surveillance and secrecy is necessary to protect against national security threats. However, overbroad government power to conduct mass surveillance with minimal transparency threatens Constitutional freedoms and inhibits meaningful public debate. Here are four – but not the only – needed national security surveillance reforms that the Administration and Congress should tackle now.