Verizon slowed California firefighters' internet speed during wildfires

Verizon throttles Santa Clara fire department's

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

Firefighters tackling one of the worst ever brush fires in the U.S. had their mobile data cut due to overuse.

Firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, Aug. 7, 2018, near Ladoga, Calif. It - wrongly, by its own admission - slowed down the connection because of the volume of data, not the specific type.

The teclo restricted data service in the middle of the Medocino Complex fire in July this year, capping data at 0.2Mbps, which the Santa Clara County Fire Department said seriously hampered firefighting efforts. But in this case, officials have emphasized, homes and even lives were at stake.

Verizon will also work closely with mission critical first responders to refine its service plan to better meet unique needs, it said.

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. The County of Santa Clara, the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District and the California Public Utilities Commission are also petitioners in the lawsuit.

Santa Clara County Fire Capt. Bill Murphy told CNN that the department's connection speed dropped to what you would expect from a dial-up service, making simple tasks like sending an email or updating a Google document nearly impossible.

Despite the concern, this was not a net neutrality issue.

Leaders with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, which fights fires on millions of acres across the state, confirmed they haven't heard about any throttling issues either.

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This truck uses a Verizon SIM card for internet service and found this connectivity throttled from peaks of 50Mbps to 30kbps in the middle of fighting the wildfires in the region. This situation is that a customer reached its prescribed limit of its contractual data plan and the data was reduced.

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

'This was a customer support mistake.

Flato, Verizon's spokesperson, insisted, "This situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court".

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.

In the lawsuit, Bowden said internet systems are important "in providing fire and emergency response, particularly for events like large fires which require rapid deployment and organization" of personnel, resources and equipment.

Verizon wasn't playing favorites when it came to the data that the firefighters received.

The document included an email chain that showed that the fire department had been working with Verizon to solve the throttling problem before the Mendocino Fires started and that Verizon did not lift the data caps until the fire department paid for a more expensive plan. The Santa Clara department had tried to address it with the Verizon accounts manager at the time.

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