Verizon slowed our data as we fought massive wildfire, chief says

Firefighters light a backfire while battling the Mendocino Complex Fire near Potter Valley Calif. on Aug. 9

Chief Bowden's complaint dealt with the process of filing complaints with the FCC, which became harder with the lifting of net neutrality rules.

As California firefighters battled the largest fire in the state's history, Verizon slowed wireless data speeds to a crawl, making it nearly impossible for emergency personnel to use some of its high-tech tracking equipment.

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.

Ars Technica details the email back-and-forth-starting in late June and continuing as the Mendocino Complex Fire raged on-between Verizon and fire officials, including one in which a fire IT officer begs, "Please work with us".

But Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams - representing the county's fire department - countered in a press release Wednesday, saying, "Verizon's throttling has everything to do with net neutrality". In a statement to the Verge, Verizon says the throttling had "nothing to do with net neutrality;" it was a "customer support mistake".

The Santa Clara County Fire Department says Verizon slowed its internet communications at a wildfire command center three weeks ago, crippling the emergency communications truck's data speeds and forcing firefighters to use other agencies' internet connections and their personal cellphones. As a result, we're introducing a new plan that will feature unlimited data, with no caps on mobile solutions and automatically includes priority access.

Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden called unlimited data flow "critical to public safety" but said public agencies do not have unlimited funds and try to find an affordable plan that will meet their needs.

More news: Here's what else the Trump administration did this summer

Verizon Wireless on Friday said it will immediately stop imposing data speed restrictions on first responders throughout the West Coast and Hawaii after facing intense criticism for reducing service to firefighters battling California's largest-ever wildfire. We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward, ' the statement added.

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

The new rules allow companies to limit access to customers who have reached certain data limits.

Multiple members of Congress, including Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, wrote a letter Friday to the Federal Trade Commission demanding an investigation into Verizon's data-throttling of emergency workers.

Limon referenced the Thomas Fire, which burned over 280,000 acres in her district in December 2017. "And we're making every effort to ensure that it never happens again", he added.

Verizon blamed a communication error and acknowledged the fire department's normal service should have been restored more quickly than it was. The blaze ranked second in size only to the Mendocino Complex fires, the largest in state history.

When the fire department called Verizon to tell them they were in the middle of dealing with a public emergency and safety issue, a customer service representative told them they should upgrade to a more expensive plan. Further, in the event of another disaster, Verizon will lift restrictions on public safety customers, providing full network access.

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