Amid Mendocino blaze, Verizon slowed data speed for firefighters

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

Firefighters conduct a controlled burn to defend houses against flames from the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, as it continues to spreads towards the town of Upper Lake, California, on August 1, 2018.

Still, Verizon conceded, "we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations".

"Verizon imposed these limitations, despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services". "That is exactly what the Trump administration's repeal of net neutrality allows and encourages".

Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato said initially that the company's response to Bowden was a "customer support mistake" and "has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court".

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.

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. Verizon will introduce a new unlimited data plan for public safety employees and allow agencies to upgrade to the new plan at no cost next week, according to Maiorana.

In the wake of a customer-service backlash involving California firefighters, Verizon is apologizing for slowing down the data speeds of first-responders - and says it will begin offering emergency workers a new unlimited data plan to avoid future mishaps.

The court document included email correspondence between the fire department and Verizon before the Mendocino Fires started, showing the throttling problem and that Verizon did not lift the data caps until fire officials paid for a more expensive plan.

USA telco Verizon cut back data service to a mobile command and control centre to just 0.5% of normal level after the firefighters exceeded their data package. The Mendocino Complex Fire alone has burned more than 400,000 acres and razed more than 270 structures.

A lawyer for Santa Clara County and its fire department told Ars Technica on Wednesday that it was important to highlight Verizon's use of throttling amid the net neutrality debate because it showed that internet service providers "will act in their economic interests, even at the expense of public safety".

The multi-party lawsuit says Verizon's actions were a effect 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.

The slowdown "had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services", Bowden said. "For that, we are truly sorry". Verizon customers have access to our more than 450,000-square mile 4G LTE coverage advantage over competitors. "And we're making every effort to ensure that it never happens again", he added.

"The idea that Verizon or another provider can opt in or opt out in helping us do what the public demands is appalling", said Cindy Chavez, Santa Clara County supervisor.

"In large and complex fires, resource allocation requires immediate information", he wrote.

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