After California firefighter throttling flap, Verizon lifts first responder speed caps

California Firefighters Accuse Verizon of Data Throttling Amid Emergency

Verizon | Mozart

The Santa Clara County Fire Department in California was forced to shell out twice the regular amount it normally pays simply to get Verizon to stop throttling the speeds on its supposedly "unlimited" data plan.

Verizon admitted its mistake, but said that it had pointed out the terms of the contract to the fire department.

In its own statement after the lawsuit addendum was filed, Verizon denied that this move was related to net neutrality. But the Federal Communications Commission also has "transparency rules" that require broadband providers to disclose their traffic management practices to customers. But Verizon insisted the data caps - which were a feature of the department's low-priced data plan - have no link to net neutrality.

He said agencies like his have a challenge: trying to predict how much data they'll need, and balancing it against their budget constraints.

Anxiety over how the absence of net neutrality rules could affect things has manifested itself in California. This situation is not that. Ironically, it's Verizon's policy to remove throttling restrictions when asked by fire departments in emergency situations at no additional cost. He prefaced his question to Reyes by saying the throttling and net neutrality connections are "conflated" and "different issues".

Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato said initially that the company's response to Bowden was a "customer support mistake" and "has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court". "We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward".

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. also weighed in Friday afternoon.

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"It is unacceptable for communications providers to deceive their customers, but when the consumer in question is a government entity tasked with fire and emergency services, we can't afford to wait a moment longer", the letter says. "The FTC must investigate whether Verizon and other communications companies are being unfair or deceptive in the services they're offering to public safety entities, and if so, to determine what remedies are appropriate to ensure our first responders have adequate service when lives are on the line".

Maiorana said that details about the plan would be released next week.

The announcement comes in a summer of epic fires in California and as Hawaii is grappling with torrential rainfall, flooding and power outages stemming from Hurricane Lane. That plan won't include caps on what he calls "mobile solutions", and will include "priority access", he stated.

"This is not a reaction to Santa Clara", she said.

The fire department has an unlimited government plan with Verizon, but the company slowed, or throttled, data speed once the agency reached a certain threshold, Bowden wrote in an August 20 court filing. "And every day, we are eternally grateful for their bravery and efforts".

At a legislative hearing in Sacramento on Friday, a second Verizon representative apologized for the "throttling" incident and vowed it would never happen again.

The throttling impacted the OES 5262, a fire department vehicle that serves as a mobile command and control center of sorts in order to "track, organize, and prioritize routing of resources from around the state and country to the sites where they are most needed", per Bowden.

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