Verizon throttled California firefighters' internet speeds amid blaze

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Verizon rolled out changes Friday as state lawmakers said they were outraged to learn the telecommunications company had slowed firefighters' internet service while they battled what became the largest wildfire on record in California.

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.

Santa Clara County Fire Department chief Anthony Bowden testified Friday before Verizon announced the plan.

"While we have been delivering new and increased capabilities to this [public-safety] segment over the past six months, the incident that's hit the news in California is something that we wanted to address head on", Mike Maiorana, Verizon's senior vice president-public sector, said yesterday during an interview with IWCE's Urgent Communications.

Bowden said that when the fire department reached out to Verizon to inform the company of the throttling, a representative said the department had exceeded its data usage limit and suggested it subscribe to a new, more expensive plan.

Bowden said his department has encountered data throttling during three different fires, including the Pawnee Fire in Lake County this summer.

But Bowden concluded that unless regulatory action is taken, Verizon will continue to exploit emergency situations like wildfires to impose higher costs on the public and reap greater profits.

Bowden wrote that his department's OES 5262 mobile communication center sent and received five to 10 gigabytes of data through a wireless router each day while tracking the response to the Mendocino Complex Fire. Full containment is expected come September.

"We had a process failure", Erwin said during an interview with IWCE's Urgent Communications.

"It really truly is meant for the rigors of first responders and how we need it", he said.

In a statement to CBS News earlier this week, Verizon said the throttling had "nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court". "And we're making every effort to ensure that it never happens again".

The above reports have been compiled and submitted as addendum evidence in a lawsuit filed by 22 state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission.

We've been working closely with mission critical first responders to refine our service plan to better meet their unique needs.

That shouldn't have been immediately necessary, Verizon said, because the company's policy is to immediately remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations.

"If folks are in a position to block or slow your access to information at a time of an emergency, that's gonna have a bad effect", said Joe Simitian, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. 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. We'll provide full details when we introduce the plan next week, and we will make it easy to upgrade service at no additional cost. Verizon customers have access to our more than 450,000-square mile 4G LTE coverage advantage over competitors.