Published: Mon, August 27, 2018
Tech | By Amelia Peters

Lawmakers press for probe into Verizon's firefighter throttling

Lawmakers press for probe into Verizon's firefighter throttling

"In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us".

"We had a process failure", Erwin said during an interview with IWCE's Urgent Communications. "We stand united and will work together to ensure this unsafe practice of throttling first responders will never happen again here in the Golden State". He also asked that the City Attorney's Office file a "friend of the court" brief in support of the net neutrality lawsuit.

U.S. 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 department bought a government high-speed wireless data plan that provides an unlimited amount of data at a set monthly cost, but the company reduces speeds if the buyer exceeds certain levels of use during that billing cycle. But in this case, the firefighters were told they needed to switch to a plan that cost more than double what they were now paying before normal data service would be restored, according to court documents filed Tuesday in an ongoing legal battle over net neutrality.

Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden said emergency personnel heavily relies on Internet services to monitor fast-moving fires and coordinate resources.

Previously, Verizon said full-service should have immediately been restored when the fire department told them they were responding to a public emergency.

His declaration is an addendum to a legal challenge against the FCC filed by almost two dozen state attorneys general and a slew of government agencies looking to overturn the repeal of net neutrality rules that went into effect in June.

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.

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In its own statement after the lawsuit addendum was filed, Verizon denied that this move was related to net neutrality.

Before answering questions from the State Assembly's Select Committee on Natural Disaster, Response, Recovery and Rebuilding, Reyes revealed that Verizon is immediately lifting all data caps on public safety workers for unlimited data plans in four US states, including California.

He blamed an "operational error" for the company's failure to lift the data cap as soon as firefighters called.

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.

The Mendocino fire which began on July 27 has consumed almost 407,000 acres, or roughly half the size of Rhode Island, and as of Wednesday it was 74 per cent contained. "I really truly hope there is a greater partnership (with cellular providers) where this does not happen with any public agency".

After a Verizon representative informed the firefighters they needed to upgrade their service to a $99.99 per month plan, doubling the bill, the department complied, and service improved. The blaze ranked second in size only to the Mendocino Complex fires, the largest in state history.

OES 5262 is a command-and-control resource that has the "primary function to track, organize and prioritize" response resources during an incident using specialized software and Google Sheets by leveraging leverages cloud computing via broadband Internet connectivity.

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