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Judiciary Committee passes bill restricting mobile service shutdowns without court review

A bill that would restrict local government and agencies’ abilities to interrupt or shutdown mobile service without court review passed through the state Senate Judiciary Committee this week and will now face a full Senate vote, according to the bill’s author.

Senator Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, introduced the bill, which would bring modern telecommunications network in line with the current state law for telephone service and requires a court order for service shutdown or interruption, and has stressed the importance of service free from government involvement.

"Open and available communication networks are critical to public safety and a key element of a free and open society," Padilla said in a statement. "SB 1160 will protect our right of free speech."

SB 1160 was written following the shutdown of mobile service by the Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency. BART shut down service in August, 2011 during protests in an effort to prevent organizers from coordinating via cell phone. Since the protest, the BART Board has adopted a policy allowing such shutdowns in specific cases, according to Padilla’s office.

In response to concerns following the shutdown, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski in March sought public comment on service interruptions by government agencies.