SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A bill to require that Bay Area Rapid Transit and other government agencies seek a court order before blocking cell phone access could reach the floor of the California Senate before the end of April.

Los Angeles County State Senator Alex Padilla introduced the legislation because of BART’s decision to shut down underground cell service at San Francisco stations one day in 2011 to stop a protest.

“There’s certainly protocols and prohibitions in place for older technologies, landline technologies. No city or county can just choose to cut service off without a good reason, but the law has not been updated to apply to modern technology,” Padilla said.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

BART adopted a policy on cell phone access after outcry from civil rights groups about the free speech implications of trying to prevent a demonstration against excessive use of force by transit police.

The policy calls for restrictions on cell phone access only because of an imminent danger that threatens passengers or property, or could seriously disrupt service.

General Manager Grace Crunican said BART needed latitude to act quickly. In a letter to Sen. Padilla that raises concerns about the bill, Crunican pointed to the possibility of a bomb being detonated in the BART system using a cell phone.

Padilla countered that having telephones might allow passengers in danger to call 911, and noted that judges are available round the clock in order to issue prompt decisions during emergencies.

Padilla said the bill already cleared one committee without opposition, and faces review by another Senate committee before it will be eligible for a full vote.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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