Verizon Throttled Data During Deadly Wildfire in California

Utah firefighter Matt Burchett 42 who died fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in California is honored in Salt Lake City on Aug. 15. Burchett was hit by a falling tree

The announcement comes after firefighters, combating wildfires in California, had their data speeds throttled when using Verizon's networks.

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

Reyes also reiterated the company's position that this throttling had nothing to do with net neutrality-he emphasized that net neutrality had to do with content prioritization or de-prioritization, not data caps.

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

"We didn't live up to our own promise of service and performance excellence when our process failed some first responders on the line, battling a massive California wildfire", Mike Maiorana, a Verizon senior vice-president, said in a statement Friday.

The account by Bowden is part of a larger lawsuit, filed by 22 states that are seeking to overturn the government's decision to revoke net neutrality.

The Santa Clara County Fire Department has said Verizon slowed its internet communications at a wildfire command center three weeks ago, crippling an emergency communications truck's data speeds and forcing firefighters to use other agencies' internet connections and their personal cellphones.

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.

The data restrictions were not lifted until the SCCFD paid Verizon for an upgraded data plan at double the cost of the original plan, emails included in the court documents show.

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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.

The executives spoke shortly after hearing from Santa Clara County Fire Chief Tony Bowden who said that his agency had experienced similar throttling in December 2017.

Net neutrality rules seek to prevent internet service providers and broadband carriers such as Verizon from favoring one website or service over others by granting unequal loading speeds, or by blocking or slowing content.

"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.

He says he saw the writing on the wall on this issue past year, and six months ago, filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission over cell companies common practice of throttling, or "speed capping", data.

'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. "For that, we are truly sorry". But Verizon insisted the data caps - which were a feature of the department's low-priced data plan - have no link to net neutrality.

The fire chief said the incident with Verizon highlighted the importance of ensuring emergency responders have access to quick data that could prove lifesaving.

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.

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