Verizon Promises To Stop Throttling First Responders 08/27/2018

Joshua Bennett
August 27, 2018

The company throttled the department's service as they were still battling the Mendocino Complex Fire because it had reached its data limit for the month.

Verizon leaders quickly apologized for the incident, saying they have a policy of removing all speed restrictions in emergency situations. It added that the incident had nothing to do with net neutrality.

Service providers in the US have always been able to throttle mobile data after a data cap is reached, even when more robust net neutrality rules were in place.

Verizon Senior Vice President Mike Maiorana says Verizon will lift data restrictions and provide full network access to first responders during disasters.

Verizon Wireless said it would launch an unlimited plan next week with no speed caps for data use.

After Verizon admitted that it slowed the fire department's data - a despised practice known as throttling - but claimed it was a simple mistake that "has nothing to do with net neutrality", Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams responded in astatementon behalf of the fire department on Wednesday that "Verizon's throttling has everything to do with net neutrality".

After taking criticism this week for throttling a fire department's data speeds during a wildfire, Verizon announced Thursday it no longer will place restrictions on data speeds of first responders during emergencies on the West Coast. Under the department's plan with Verizon, speed caps might be hit if data use goes over 25GB before the monthly billing period ends. The firefighters are now trying to control and put out the Mendocino Complex Fire, which has become the largest wildfire in the state's history.

Ars Technica reports on a new lawsuit that includes a statement from Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden alleging Verizon throttled the fire department's data services (specifically tied to its vehicle OES 5262, which uses a Verizon SIM card to get online) while it was in the midst of fighting the state's wildfires.

A Northern California fire department said a telecommunications company slowed its internet communications at a crucial command centre set up to help fight one of the state's largest wildfires.

Verizon denies the slowdown was related to the lawsuit or the FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules, which required equal data access to all customers.

Santa Clara County Fire Capt. Bill Murphy told CNN that the department's connection speed dropped to what you would expect from a dial-up service, making simple tasks like sending an email or updating a Google document nearly impossible.

After realizing that the unit's data connection was being throttled by Verizon, Bowden's technology staff members emailed Verizon, requesting that it end the throttling immediately in the interest of public safety, he wrote. Those rules are meant to force broadband companies to give all customers comparable service, and many critics have insisted they would have protected firefighters' internet access.

She said Verizon is reviewing the situation and "will fix any issues going forward".

"Their ability to (fire the fire) was significantly impacted by the data throttling", Murphy said.

He said agencies like his have a challenge: trying to predict how much data they'll need, and balancing it against their budget constraints. "And we're making every effort to ensure that it never happens again", according to a statement from Verizon.

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