As Another Protest Looms, the FCC Investigates BART for Last Week's Cellphone ShutdownS

After the Bay Area Rapid Transit quelled an anti-BART protest by shutting down the mobile phone system in their stations, they attracted the attention of the FCC, who will now investigate the matter.

Being a government agency and all, BART has attracted the fury of citizens who argue that first amendement rights were being infringed upon. Speaking to IDG News, FCC spokesperson Neil Grace had the following to say:

"Any time communications services are interrupted, we seek to assess the situation," said FCC spokesman Neil Grace in an e-mail. "We are continuing to collect information about BART's actions and will be taking steps to hear from stakeholders about the important issues those actions raised, including protecting public safety and ensuring the availability of communications networks."

People were attempting to assemble last week to protest the death of a man last month who was shot by a BART police officer who was walking around with knife. But the disabling of the cell towers by BART played a significant role in stifiling that protest.

And the FCC isn't the only one whose interest BART drew. Anonymous is also getting into the action, hacking the website of a BART vendor and releasing the personal info of 2000 customers. The SF Weekly says Anon issued the following statement:

"We are Anonymous, we are your citizens, we are the people, we do not tolerate oppression from any government agency," the hackers wrote in an online posting. "BART has proved multiple times that they have no problem exploiting and abusing the people."

BART "stored their members' information with virtually no security," the hackers wrote. "Any 8-year-old with an Internet connection could have done what we did to find it. On top of that, none of the info, including the passwords, was encrypted."

For now, the official BART site is hack-free, as officials say they're doing everything they can to secure the site. But they may draw another round of public anger after tonight.

Another protest is planned for 5pm PDT tonight in San Francisco, and BART claims that they'll shut down their phone and wi-fi antennas again if they have to, because riders "don't have the right to free speech inside the fare gates." Sounds like they got themselves in for more than they bargained for with their latest stunt. [IDG and SF Chronicle]