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Government Surveillance

Should Cellphone Service Be Shut Off During Emergencies for Public Safety?

After the bombing of the Boston Marathon Monday there were rumors that cellphone service in the area had been suspended by providers. It was later revealed that the sheer volume of calls slowed service to a point where it might have seemed to be shut off. But it still raises the question of if authorities can — and should — suspend wireless service in an emergency.

Shortly after the two explosions on April 15, the Associated Press first reported a law enforcement official, citing an intelligence briefing, saying cellphone service had been shut down Monday in the Boston area to prevent any potential remote detonations of explosives. But later AP updated the story after speaking with cellphone providers who said no such request had been made and service continued to remain open.