As California firefighters battled the state's largest wildfire, Verizon throttled their data

As California firefighters battled the state's largest wildfire, Verizon throttled their data

A United States mobile network has come under criticism after severely limiting service to firefighters battling the biggest wildfire in California's history.

A Northern California fire department says Verizon slowed its wireless data speeds to a crawl last month, rendering some of its high-tech tracking equipment nearly useless as firefighters battled the largest wildfire in state history. Verizon will introduce a new unlimited data plan for public safety employees and allow agencies to upgrade to the new plan at no cost next week, according to Maiorana.

"In the midst of our response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, County Fire discovered the data connection for OES 5262 was being throttled by Verizon, and data rates had been reduced to 1/200, or less, than the previous speeds".

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 County of Santa Clara, the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District and the California Public Utilities Commission are also petitioners in the lawsuit.

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 department chief has said the throttling deprived his firefighters of access to critical information, endangering them.

The fire department, Verizon said, had purchased a wireless data plan that came with a certain allotment of data for a set monthly cost.

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

During the Friday hearing, Bowden specifically said that his staff was still unable to reach this accounts manager, and they had to call the ordinary customer support line.




"I don't want to pay for all that data every month on the off chance that we're going to use it", he said.

But Verizon said in a statement that "this situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court".

"It's apples and oranges", said Rudy Reyes, Verizon's assistant general counsel in the western US region.

"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.

"In large and complex fires, resource allocation requires immediate information", he wrote.

Keeping emergency personnel connected requires a lot of data.

Murphy said that firefighters were able to work around the problem by using their own devices, but he is concerned about what will happen if others see their data throttled during an emergency. Not only did Verizon refuse to lift the cap it had placed on the internet speeds on an unlimited data plan, it tried to convince the department that switching to a different, more expensive one was its only viable solution.

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