SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Calif. Senate Bill 380, a bill to prevent the arbitrary shutdown or interruption of cell phone service, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown today. The bill becomes effective on January 1, 2014. The new law was authored by Senator Padilla in response to BART shutdown of wireless services.
“Open communication networks are critical to public safety and a key element of a free society. I applaud Governor Brown for signing SB 380,” Senator Alex Padilla said.
“This new law will require a court order to interrupt modern mobile communication networks. For decades this requirement has been in place to protect traditional landline telephone service from arbitrary shutdown, now it will be in place for modern wireless communications as well,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “We need to make sure our laws keep up with changes in technology,” Senator Padilla added.
Senate Bill 380, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), was in response to the Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency (BART) shutdown of mobile services for three hours during public protests in August 2011. The BART Board subsequently adopted a policy allowing a service interruption under certain circumstances, but with no court review. BART’s actions led the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to open a proceeding on wireless service shutdowns. Public comments filed by numerous parties stated that, in nearly every case, a shutdown of wireless service creates more public safety problems than it solves because first responders cannot communicate effectively and the public is not able to call 911 or receive emergency alerts.
“During an emergency, shutting down cell service prevents the public from being able to call 911, receive emergency wireless alerts, and locate family members. It can also impair first responders’ ability to communicate,” said Senator Padilla. “The tragic events in Boston earlier this year, remind us of the vital importance of wireless service to first responders, victims, and families during emergencies,” added Padilla.
An early report during the Boston bombings was that authorities shutdown cell service to prevent remote detonation of additional bombs. This was retracted with later reports that first responders and wireless carriers were asking people to text and email to check on loved ones, so there would be sufficient voice capacity for first responders at the scene.
Specifically, the new law maintains a statewide standard allowing service interruption only as directed by a court order based on probable cause. The bill preempts conflicting local policies. The bill’s provisions are technology neutral and apply to any service used for calling 911, including wireless and Internet-based services. The bill would add a process for a shutdown in exigent circumstances followed by court review to determine whether free speech and public safety standards are met. The bill preserves law enforcement tools to protect public safety in hostage and barricade situations, and clarify the standard for when an emergency shutdown is allowed without prior court review.
“Wireless service is an extremely valuable tool to enhance public safety during emergencies. This bill establishes standard to prevent the arbitrary shutdown or interruption of wireless service in California,” said Senator Padilla.
Senator Alex Padilla, 40, graduated from MIT with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He currently serves on the Board of MIT and is President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He is Chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and represents the more than 1,100,000 residents of the 20th State Senate District in Los Angeles. For more information about Senator Padilla visit his website http://sd20.senate.ca.gov/ .