US CARRIER Verizon has been accused of throttling data speeds for firemen tackling the record forest fires blazing in California.
The Santa Clara County Fire Department released a declaration in which its Chief, Anthony Bowden writes: "This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services. Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services."
Evidence of the throttling, which required the fire department to 'pay double' its regular fees to remove, has now been submitted to the 22-state suit against the Federal Communications Commission, demanding that it repeals its abolition of net neutrality laws.
The Fire Department had paid Verizon for what it calls "unlimited data" but later found that not only did a heavy use clause apply, but that there was no exception for essential services.
Although Verizon was informed immediately both of the throttling, and the public safety risk it presented, the response wasn't quite what they expected.
"Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling, but rather than restoring us to an essential data transfer speed, they indicated that County Fire would have to switch to a new data plan at more than twice the cost, and they would only remove throttling after we contacted the Department that handles billing and switched to the new data plan," continued Bowden.
In the meantime, the Fire Department was forced to use data either borrowed from other stakeholders like the police, or the personal data of its firefighters.
A statement from Verizon apologised, explaining (well, sort of explaining): "Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations.
"We have done that many times, including for emergency personnel responding to these tragic fires. In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us. This was a customer support mistake. We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward."
But Bowden's statement warns that the same thing could happen again.
"In light of our experience, County Fire believes it is likely that Verizon will continue to use the exigent nature of public safety emergencies and catastrophic events to coerce public agencies into higher-cost plans, ultimately paying significantly more for mission-critical service—even if that means risking harm to public safety during negotiations," he said.
Which is a posh way of saying "haters gonna hate" we guess?
Verizon has denied that there is a link between the policy and net neutrality, saying they stuffed up, but pointed out that the plan selected for the department may not have been right for them.
Which Verizon should have spotted. If it wanted to. μ
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