After slowing firefighters' internet, Verizon nixes caps for first responders

26 August, 2018, 23:02 | Author: Gerard Cortez
  • California Firefighters Accuse Verizon of Data Throttling Amid Emergency

A hearing is set to happen at the State Capitol on Friday to figure out why Verizon throttled data to first responders during the Mendocino Complex Fire.

Verizon said it removed all speed cap restrictions for emergency workers fighting wildfires on the West Coast and for those in Hawaii, where emergency crews were rescuing people from areas flooded by Hurricane Lane.

Verizon said that it would be introducing a new data plan for first responders that doesn't include throttling after an ensuing uproar.

The Santa Clara County Fire Department says Verizon slowed its internet communications at a wildfire command centre three weeks ago, crippling the emergency communications truck's data speeds and forcing firefighters to use other agencies' internet connections and their personal cellphones.

The addendum said that the department discovered Verizon's data throttling, which it claimed "severely interfered" with the emergency vehicle's ability to work properly. "This situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court", she said.

Verizon says it had "made a mistake in how we communicated with our customer about the terms of its plan".

'This was a customer support mistake.

Before answering questions from the State Assembly's Select Committee on Natural Disaster, Response, Recovery and Rebuilding, Reyes revealed that Verizon is immediately lifting all data caps on public safety workers for unlimited data plans in four US states, including California. While battling the Mendocino Complex Fire, Bowden said his department's OES 5262 mobile communication center sent and received five to 10 gigabytes of data through a wireless router daily.

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Leaders with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, which fights fires on millions of acres across the state, confirmed they haven't heard about any throttling issues either.

The county had reached its monthly data capacity under its internet plan that allows Verizon to significantly slow service.

California Professional Firefighters threw their support Friday behind the pro-net neutrality bill in the Legislature, SB822, demanding the restoration of Obama-era regulations written by then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015, which the Trump administration-led Federal Communications Commission repealed in 2017.

"Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services", Bowden wrote. Verizon said it will reveal more in an announcement next week.

Wednesday, Bowden's comments became a flashpoint in the ongoing battle over net neutrality rules, which long regulated how broadband providers can manipulate their networks.

The company will also be releasing a new unlimited data plan for first responders.

However, the firm agreed full service should have been immediately restored to the county when fire department authorities told a customer service representative it was responding to a public emergency, and the department should not have been urged to upgrade instead.

State legislators are asking for a response from the Verizon CEO on a series of questions including, how many times, where and when, they have throttled the data technology of first responders during disasters.

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