According to a story that appeared on Fox 13 in Salt Lake City, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) is cracking down on its riders’ internet usage. Now, viewing pornography or gambling online will result in a $300 fine.
Fox 13’s Arikka Von broke the story, which appeared last week. When asked why UTA management implemented the new rules, Von explained, “UTA says it’s not because they had a bunch of complaints. The old ordinances are just that: old, at least 10 years old, so they have some new policies that include some of the new services like free WiFi.” On a national scale, online poker players have faced the same difficulties interpreting age-old laws like the Wire Act, which was enacted in 1961, nearly 50 years ago. The Wire Act, although passed before the advent of the internet, has been largely extended by the U.S. Department of Justice to include many forms of internet gambling.
Von noted, “A train ticket gets you free internet once you agree to the Terms of Service. That means no online gambling or viewing pornography. The UTA now has a new ordinance that fines passengers for illegal or offensive internet use on the train. The first violation is $300. Do it again and it could cost you $500.” The UTA is one of a growing number of transit systems to include internet onboard. American Airlines recently debuted Gogo Inflight Internet on cross-country trips. The service is available for a fee.
Enforcement of the UTA’s ban on internet gambling and pornography is done by the organization’s police force. Fox 13 noted, “These are real police officers,” and explained, “An officer will always try to educate first and foremost. Riders say they’ve never seen anyone watching porn on the train.” UTA has enacted a full appeals process if riders feel they were targeted unfairly. A representative of the transit system admitted that identifying what is acceptable and what is not can be a complicated process: “The definition can be very difficult to pin down for everyone.”
Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) Executive Director Joe Brennan told Poker News Daily, “I’m surprised that they’re going to waste anyone’s time enforcing internet gambling. I’m also disturbed with the constant association with pornography. Our opponents try to make that linkage constantly between gambling and pornography. All you have to do is look at the acceptance of all things gambling. There is no comparison between the two activities.” The term “internet gambling” is mentioned in the Fox 13 story just once, while references to pornography pervade the rest of the two and a half minute piece.
With regards to enforcement of the UTA’s guidelines through law enforcement personnel roving the trains, Brennan commented, “They’ll have police officers looking over the shoulders of riders. This announcement is someone grandstanding politically. The claim on internet gambling is dubious. The claim on pornography is also misguided.” Brennan added that viewing pornography is typically done in private, not in the middle of a commuter train in a major metropolitan area.
According to text found on the UTA’s website, the internet service provided by the transit system filters content automatically: “UTA’s service providers use content-filtering software that attempts to restrict access to offensive sites; however, no content-filtering software is totally effective. Please use the same precautions you would use accessing any public wireless network.” The service is available for riders age 18 and over.
iMEGA is fresh off filing a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), which attempted to force the censorship of 200 internet gambling domains by its residents. The DPS served notice to 11 of the world’s largest internet service providers (ISPs) calling for the blockage. However, after iMEGA’s suit, it rescinded its notice.