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FCC seeks to define when mobile networks can be turned off

Assailing the shutting off of mobile networks in Egypt and Libya and then allowing the same to be done by the Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority was hypocritical. But American hypocrisy has limits. They have launched a public-comment process to define the terms. When will we see such actions in the developing world?

The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing whether or when the police and other government officials can intentionally interrupt cellphone and Internet service to protect public safety.

Late Thursday, the commission requested public comment on the issue, which came to widespread attention last August, when Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco shut off cellphone service for three hours in some stations to hinder planned protests there.

The transit system interrupted service without notice to the F.C.C. or the California Public Utilities Commission. The interruption was in anticipation of protests in BART stations in response to the fatal shooting of a man in July by a BART police officer.

Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, said in a statement that such a shutdown “raises serious legal and policy issues, and must meet a very high bar.”

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