Councilman Wants Mobile Companies to Explain 'Throttling' of First Responders

Councilman Wants Mobile Companies to Explain 'Throttling' of First Responders

In what are now substantiated reports that Verizon Wireless throttled data plans of firefighters while they were battling the Mendocino Complex Fires, California Legislators from across California are calling out the carrier and demanding formal action be taken. "In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us".

"In light of our experience, County Fire believes it is likely that Verizon will continue to use the exigent nature of public safety emergencies and catastrophic events to coerce public agencies into higher-cost plans, ultimately paying significantly more for mission-critical service-even if that means risking harm to public safety during negotiations."

Despite the concern, this was not a net neutrality issue.

Flato, Verizon's spokesperson, insisted, "This situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court". It provides a separate network, used only by first responders, and offers data plans with no limits or throttling.

"Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations", she said in an email.

The company said it also plans to introduce a new plan next week for first responders with unlimited data, no mobile caps and priority access.

"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.

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.

In its own statement after the lawsuit addendum was filed, Verizon denied that this move was related to net neutrality.

A couple of days ago, we told you that Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote an addendum that was attached to a suit filed with the USA appeals court.

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.

"What we did was specifically put in the rule about the ability to review activities", Wheeler said.

At the hearing, Bowden recounted a timeline of the fire and Verizon's response. Instead, the fire department says a customer representative from Verizon urged the county to upgrade to a more expensive package.

'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.

He blamed an "operational error" for the company's failure to lift the data cap as soon as firefighters called.

Murphy says the department still uses Verizon and has added a second provider to ensure redundancies in their system. "For that, we are truly sorry. 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".