Amid Mendocino blaze, Verizon slowed data speed for firefighters

Posted August 27, 2018

He also asked that the City Attorney's Office file a "friend of the court" brief in support of the net neutrality lawsuit.

Verizon on Friday apologized for throttling the data speeds for a fire department as it was battling the largest recorded wildfire in California's history.

Chief Bowden and Verizon representatives are slated to speak at the hearing.

The lawsuit, filed by 22 states and the District of Columbia, challenges the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, which prevented internet service providers from purposely slowing the data, called "throttling", and blocking or discriminating against users, platforms or content providers.

The company did not restore the department's data speeds until the agency upgraded its plan at double the price despite already having an unlimited data plan, he said. In today's new statement, Verizon apologized to the department and added it has lifted all throttling caps for those firefighters, along with the emergency departments that are now dealing with the effects of Hurricane Lane in Hawaii.

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

Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato said the company made a mistake and "will fix any issues going forward".

Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden said Verizon restored full speeds only after the department subscribed to a more expensive plan.

"Some officials are also upset that Verizon chose to slow wireless data speeds, restricting data transfers, a practice known as 'throttling".

Verizon's moves are aimed at soothing mounting outrage sparked by the Santa Clara County Fire Department, which said that the telecom giant had throttled the speeds of firefighters struggling to contain the largest wildfire California has ever seen.

He says he saw the writing on the wall on this issue previous year, and six months ago, filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission over cell companies common practice of throttling, or "speed capping", data.

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.

"It's important for communications providers and public safety agencies to work together closely to ensure that agencies have communications services that meet their needs, especially in emergency situations". "For that, we are truly sorry". Verizon said it will reveal more in an announcement next week.

"Californians who depend on first responders to protect their lives and property were shocked to learn that a cellular service provider could use its pricing policies to hinder the efforts of firefighters in the early hours of the Mendocino Complex Fire", the committee's leaders, Democratic Assembly members Marc Levine of San Rafael and Monique Limon of Santa Barbara said in a joint statement.

He added that the company plans to introduce a new "unlimited data" plan next week.

Firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, Aug. 7, 2018, near Ladoga, Calif. "Verizon imposed these limitations, despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services".