Verizon throttles Santa Clara fire department's "unlimited" data during a wildfire

Verizon throttles Santa Clara fire department's

Verizon throttles Santa Clara fire department's "unlimited" data during a wildfire

In the heat of the largest wildfire in California history, Verizon dramatically slowed down data speeds for Santa Clara County firefighters helping to battle the blaze and suggested the department should pay more for a better data plan.

"As of yesterday, we removed all speed cap restrictions for first responders on the west coast and in Hawaii", Verizon Senior Vice President Mike Maiorana stated Friday.

Bowden's declaration says - and emails provided as attachments to the court documents appear to confirm - that Verizon representatives acknowledged that throttling was occurring and, then, rather than restoring faster speeds, said that to fix the problem, the fire district would need to switch to a data plan that would cost more than twice as much as it was paying at the time.

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. 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. Instead, the telecom company blamed "a mistake in how we communicated with our customer about the terms of its plan". The company added that it has a plan in place to remove the restrictions in emergency situations, but that customer support failed to act on that plan.

"In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us".

The California State Assembly held an informational hearing today to discuss Verizon's actions, led by Select Committee on Natural Disaster, Response, Recovery, and Rebuilding co-chairs Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, and Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara. 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.

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.

This truck uses a Verizon SIM card for internet service and found this connectivity throttled from peaks of 50Mbps to 30kbps in the middle of fighting the wildfires in the region.

Anxiety over how the absence of net neutrality rules could affect things has manifested itself in California.

"The idea that Verizon or another provider can opt in or opt out in helping us do what the public demands is appalling", said Cindy Chavez, Santa Clara County supervisor.

As Ars reported previously, Santa Clara County and the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District are among two-dozen local or state government agencies that the Federal Communications Commission in a bid to overturn the repeal of net neutrality rules that outlawed throttling and blocking.

Multiple members of Congress, including Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, wrote a letter Friday to the Federal Trade Commission demanding an investigation into Verizon's data-throttling of emergency workers. The department chief has said the throttling deprived his firefighters of access to critical information, endangering them.

Related news