Verizon statement on California wildfires and hurricane in Hawaii

Verizon statement on California wildfires and hurricane in Hawaii

Like a teenager who streamed too many YouTube videos and pushed his family's usage above the limits of its data plan, the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District was being throttled by its internet service provider, Verizon.

The county first disclosed the issue in a court filing last week in support of a lawsuit seeking to restore net neutrality rules repealed by the Federal Communications Commission. I was able to work through Eric Prosser at the time to have service to the device restored and Eric communicated that Verizon had properly re-categorized the device as truly "unlimited".

Legislators sent a letter to the CEO of Verizon this afternoon calling for answers and assurances that the safety of first responders, and communities that are threatened by these massive blazes, will not be put in jeopardy so the company can pad their bank accounts.

The California State Assembly held an informational hearing today to discuss Verizon's actions, led by Select Committee on Natural Disaster, Response, Recovery, and Rebuilding co-chairs Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, and Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara.

Friday morning, Verizon's Senior Vice President of Public Sector Mike Maiorana released a statement that the company "didn't live up to our own promise of service and performance excellence when our process failed some first responders on the line".

"Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations", it said. 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.

In addition to California firefighters, Verizon has also lifted speed cap restrictions for first responders in Hawaii ahead of Hurricane Lane, it said.

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California lawmakers are considering a bill that would require internet companies to restore net neutrality in California, requiring equal data access to all customers. "And every day, we are eternally grateful for their bravery and efforts".

"If folks are in a position to block or slow your access to information at a time of an emergency, that's gonna have a bad outcome", said Joe Simitian, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. 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.

After realizing that the unit's data connection was being throttled by Verizon, Bowden's technology staff members emailed Verizon, requesting that it end the throttling immediately in the interest of public safety, he wrote.

Verizon cut data speeds to a firefighter command vehicle. In today's new statement, Verizon apologized to the department and added it has lifted all throttling caps for those firefighters, along with the emergency departments that are now dealing with the effects of Hurricane Lane in Hawaii.

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.

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.

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