A bill to prevent wireless communication interruption passed its first hurdle today as the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee today approved SB 380 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).
“SB 380 establishes a framework to protect cellular service from shutdown, while recognizing that a shutdown will deprive people of the ability to call 911, receive emergency wireless alerts, find family and friends, and impair first responders’ ability to communicate,” said Senator Padilla in a statement. “Yesterday’s tragic events in Boston remind us of the vital importance of wireless service to first responders, victims and families during emergencies.”
The measure is similar to SB 1160 (Padilla) that Governor Jerry Brown vetoed in 2012. Brown stated in his veto message that the bill should be revised to preserve the ability of law enforcement to interrupt wireless communication in the event that doing so would protect public health and safety.
The original bill was introduced after the Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency (BART) shut down mobile services during public protests in August 2011. Since the protests, the BART Board adopted a policy allowing such shutdowns in specific cases.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened a proceeding on wireless service shutdowns, which received numerous public comments opposed to the shutdowns since it could impede emergency first responders from communicating effectively as well as stifle free speech.