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Verizon lifts data speed caps for first responders

Verizon lifts data speed caps for first responders

A nationwide telecommunications company rolled out changes Friday as state lawmakers said they were outraged to learn that Verizon slowed Northern California firefighters' internet service while they battled what became the state's largest-ever wildfire.

This was right in the middle of the department's response to a wildfire, said department chief Anthony Bowden, in an official declaration.

The revelations, which were first reported by Ars Technica, are buried in an addendum to a brief filed in support of 21 states and the District of Columbia, which together filed a lawsuit this year that essentially seeks to restore rules known as net neutrality.

The actions come after Verizon drew widespread criticism for throttling first responders who were battling the Mendocino Complex fire in California.

Verizon Wireless said it would launch an unlimited plan next week with no speed caps for data use.

After the second throttling experience at the Pawnee Fire in June 2018, the department upgraded to a slightly more expensive plan.

"The speed which our plan would have allowed was reduced to one 200th of the full speed of that internet connection", said Capt. Bill Murphy of Santa Clara County Central Fire Dept. We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward, ' the statement added.

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.

Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden says the throttling made it hard for crews to coordinate during the initial fire fight.

The FCC's new rules require internet service providers to publicly disclose how they manage traffic but charge the Federal Trade Commission - not the FCC - with handling complaints.

'Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services, ' he added.

"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.

Flames from the Mendocino Complex fire burn a ridge, August 8, 2018, near Lodoga, California.

"The fire department's concern is more that the throttling may impact the public in times of emergency and disaster", Murphy said.

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

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. "We stand united and will work together to ensure this unsafe practice of throttling first responders will never happen again here in the Golden State".

As of August 13, wildfires across California had scorched more than 726,000 acres and destroyed at least 2,000 structures, Bowden said in his declaration. But the issue was exacerbated at the Mendocino Complex Fire in July, as the staff could not reach a Verizon accounts manager, despite multiple phone calls and emails, until a day later.

Rather, the county had used up its monthly data capacity under an internet plan that allows Verizon to significantly slow service.

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