Verizon removes speed restrictions for all West Coast first responders

Alicia Cross
August 27, 2018

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.

Verizon has since said it will change its policies for public safety departments during emergencies.

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.

Verizon's action "severely interfered with the [fire crew's] ability to function effectively" during the Mendocino Complex fire, Santa Clara County fire chief Anthony Bowden said in a legal filing. On July 30, when the fires were raging, Buss raised the suggested price to $99.99 per month to remove throttling.!

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".

Unlike that plan, the new unlimited plan being developed by Verizon for first-responders will not restrict speeds "on mobile solutions" no matter how much data is used and "automatically includes priority access".

Mike Maiorana, Verizon's senior vice president in the public sector, said the company has removed all speed caps for first responders fighting wildfires and those responding to Hurricane Lane in Hawaii. "We have done that many times, including for emergency personnel responding to these tragic fires".

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Bowden said when he requested that Verizon restore data speeds, the company instead offered a data plan that was nearly twice as expensive.

'This was a customer support mistake.

In a statement Tuesday, Verizon said it had "made a mistake in how we communicated with our customer about the terms of its plan". The department no longer gets throttled as it has upgraded to a different plan, he said. "Verizon imposed these limitations, despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services". "Our bigger concern is the throttling will impact people accessing evacuation notices, maps and public warnings". Bowden says his department was forced to pay the telecom giant to stop the throttling, despite having an "unlimited" data plan.

The multi-party lawsuit says Verizon's actions were a outcome of the FCC's December 2017 repeal of net neutrality laws, which mandates equal access to all internet websites and allows the FCC greater control over internet service providers, like Verizon.

Service providers in the US have always been able to throttle mobile data after a data cap is reached, even when more robust net neutrality rules were in place.

"It shows that the [internet service providers] will act in their economic interests, even at the expense of public safety", Williams added. "That is exactly what the Trump Administration's repeal of net neutrality allows and encourages". She worked for former Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who was the FCC chair when the 2015 net neutrality regulations were adopted. Those rules are meant to force broadband companies to give all customers comparable service, and many critics have insisted they would have protected firefighters' internet access.

"(The FCC) abdicated its role in protecting the public", Sohn said.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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