SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — With the flip of a few switches, the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency shut off wireless and cellphone service last week to thwart a potential protest, igniting a raging debate nationwide over free speech rights.

But while groups like the American Civil Liberties Union contended that BART went too far, a KPIX-TV CBS 5 poll released Monday night found that a majority of the public in the San Francisco Bay Area backed the transit agency’s decision and rejected the arguments of free speech advocates.

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The poll of Bay Area residents found 58 percent thought BART did the right thing, 62 percent did not believe anyone’s rights were violated and 52 percent said no one was put in danger by the decision to briefly shut off access to cellphone signals and WiFi service in several underground San Francisco train stations.

BART’s actions have prompted a Federal Communications Commission investigation, threats of a lawsuit by the ACLU and a hacking group attack on the agency’s website that resulted in personal information of more than 2,000 passengers being posted online.

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>> Download Complete CBS 5 Poll Results (.pdf)

The group, which referred to itself in web postings as “Anonymous,” also disrupted BART’s evening commute Monday by organizing protests at four San Francisco stations.

The CBS 5 poll of 700 Bay Area adults in the four-county region serviced by BART (San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, and Contra Costa) had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6%. It was conducted on Monday by the polling firm SurveyUSA.

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