Service providers in the US have always been able to throttle mobile data after a data cap is reached, even when more robust net neutrality rules were in place.
Verizon said it removed all speed cap restrictions for emergency workers fighting wildfires on the West Coast and for those in Hawaii, where emergency crews were rescuing people from areas flooded by Hurricane Lane.
Verizon's actions have rekindled the national debate over net neutrality rules overturned by the Trump administration late past year. Not only did Verizon refuse to lift the cap it had placed on the internet speeds on an unlimited data plan, it tried to convince the department that switching to a different, more expensive one was its only viable solution.
"It is unacceptable for communications providers to deceive their customers, but when the consumer in question is a government entity tasked with fire and emergency services, we can't afford to wait a moment longer", read Eshoo and Pelosi's letter.
Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden detailed the experience as part of a lawsuit filed recently by 22 states and the District of Columbia that challenges the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, which prevented internet service providers from purposely slowing the data or "throttling" customers and discriminating against or favoring certain Internet traffic.
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He says he saw the writing on the wall on this issue previous year, and six months ago, filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission over cell companies common practice of throttling, or "speed capping", data.
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.
Despite the concern, this was not a net neutrality issue.
Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato said the company made a mistake and "will fix any issues going forward".
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. "For that, we are truly sorry".
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Erwin added that the new plan had been in development for more than eight months.
"Our process failed some first responders on the line", Verizon said in a statement Friday.
A Los Angeles city councilman said Friday he wants representatives of the country's major mobile data carriers to appear before the council and explain their policies on "throttling" public safety departments during emergencies.
The fire chief said the incident with Verizon highlighted the importance of ensuring emergency responders have access to quick data that could prove lifesaving.
After Verizon admitted that it slowed the fire department's data - a despised practice known as throttling - but claimed it was a simple mistake that "has nothing to do with net neutrality", Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams responded in astatementon behalf of the fire department on Wednesday that "Verizon's throttling has everything to do with net neutrality". Bowden wrote that his department's OES 5262 mobile communication center sent and received five to 10 gigabytes of data through a wireless router each day while tracking the response to the Mendocino Complex Fire.
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In that message, Stockman throttling as being when "the device that can normally act like a modern broadband internet connection is slowed to the point of acting more like an AOL dial-up modem from 1995".