SF transit agency blocks cell phone service

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James Allison, deputy chief communications officer for Bay Area Rapid Transit, said the move was necessary to protect passengers' safety.

"The temporary inconvenience was greatly outweighed by the benefit of protecting our customers from a potentially dangerous situation," Allison said.

According to a BART statement, police believed protesters would use mobile devices to coordinate a plot to disrupt train service. 

The protest never occurred.

Cell service was suspended from about 4 to 7 p.m. in four downtown stations. According to BART, the action did not affect reception outside of the stations.

BART officials insisted the action was legal.

BART accommodates expressive activities that are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment, the agency said in its statement. No person shall conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of BART stations, including BART cars and trains and BART station platforms.

Correction: An earlier version of this story cited other news reports that said wireless providers cut off cellphone service at the request of BART. In fact, BART shut-off the devices that allow for cell reception in the underground stations.

This post was updated at 6:09 p.m.