Calif. governor vetoes bill to restrict police power to blackout cellphones

ADVERTISEMENT
The legislation would have required police to obtain a court order before shutting down phone service. Under "extreme and exceptional" circumstances, police could obtain the court order within six hours of disrupting service.

In a statement, Brown said he concluded the bill's requirements could "divert attention away from resolving the conflict without further threat to public safety." He encouraged lawmakers to revise the legislation so that it strikes a better balance between free speech and public safety.

Following the blackout in the San Francisco subway stations, the Federal Communications Commission launched an inquiry into whether police should be allowed to block access to cellphone networks. 

“Our democracy, our society, and our safety all require communications networks that are available and open," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement when his agency opened its review of the issue. "Any interruption of wireless services raises serious legal and policy issues, and must meet a very high bar. The FCC, as the agency with oversight of our communications networks, is committed to preserving their availability and openness, and to harnessing communications technologies to protect the public.”

The FCC asked for comments on the circumstances that would justify a cellphone service blackout and whether the blackout would be effective in protecting public safety. The agency also asked for comments on the risks involved in blocking wireless access, such as preventing people from being able to call 911.

The agency also asked what legal basis provides the authority to shut down cellphone networks and what procedures agencies should follow to avoid abuse.