Verizon throttled data while firefighters responded to wildfire, highlighting danger of Net Neutrality repeal
According to reports from the LA Times, Verizon Wireless has lifted its controversial policy of limiting the data on first responders’ devices following widespread criticism after it became public knowledge that the company throttled the data during a wildfire for the Santa Clara Fire Department.
California Assembly members met on Friday to discuss the issue, even though the incident occurred in July. A new addendum to a lawsuit brought by Santa Clara Fire Chief Anthony Bowden lists the event as an impetus to overturn the newly passed repeal of Net Neutrality rules.
Following the California Assembly meeting, Verizon has agreed to a new wireless plan for first responders. Dave Hickey, Verizon’s vice president of business and government sales told the lawmakers that a new wireless plan which will cost public safety personnel $37.99 a month, featuring unlimited data without data caps and priority treatment when networks are congested.
Verizon admitted this week that their data plans have an automatic throttle when customers reach a specified point on data plans, but also communicated that the company removes these thresholds when the client is in a public service field such as a fire department. It calls the choice to hold true to the threshold throttling a customer service error.
Verizon senior vice president of public sector, Mike Maiorana, released a statement to the public that reads: “In supporting first responders in the Mendocino fire, 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… For that, we are truly sorry. And we’re making every effort to ensure that it never happens again.”
In his lawsuit, Bowden provides additional context for the immediate danger the data throttling by Verizon places the general public in: “Dated or stale information regarding the availability or need for resources can slow response times and render them far less effective,” Bowden writes. “Resources could be deployed to the wrong fire, the wrong part of the fire, or fail to be deployed at all. Even small delays in response translate into devastating effects, including loss of property, and, in some cases, loss of life.”