Verizon officials apologized for a "process failure" that caused a Santa Clara County fire department unit's broadband data speeds to be throttled significantly multiple times this summer while the unit tried to coordinate resources from throughout the state to fight the worst wildfire in California history-an action that was characterized as "ridiculous" by a county official.
The account by Bowden is part of a larger lawsuit, filed by 22 states that are seeking to overturn the government's decision to revoke net neutrality.
Verizon's moves are aimed at soothing mounting outrage sparked by the Santa Clara County Fire Department, which said that the telecom giant had throttled the speeds of firefighters struggling to contain the largest wildfire California has ever seen. "For that, we are truly sorry".
He also called for increasing protections to cell towers in fire-damaged or fire-prone areas to maintain critical communications and warnings to area residents as well as first responders in emergencies.
The California State Assembly's Committee on Natural Disaster Response, Recovery, and Rebuilding is holding an informational hearing Friday on "The Verizon Wireless "Data Throttling" of Mendocino Complex Firefighters' Internet Access".
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Verizon Senior Vice President Mike Maiorana says Verizon will lift data restrictions and provide full network access to first responders during disasters.
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".
The fire department has an unlimited government plan with Verizon, but the company slowed, or throttled, data speed once the agency reached a certain threshold, Bowden wrote in an August 20 court filing.
Verizon said that it would be introducing a new data plan for first responders that doesn't include throttling after an ensuing uproar.
Verizon has since said it will change its policies for public safety departments during emergencies. "This situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court", she said.
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The multi-party lawsuit says Verizon's actions were a outcome of the FCC's December 2017 repeal of net neutrality laws, which mandates equal access to all internet websites and allows the FCC greater control over internet service providers, like Verizon. "And we're making every effort to ensure that it never happens again".
"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 effect", said Joe Simitian, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. "In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us".
The FCC's new rules require internet service providers to publicly disclose how they manage traffic but charge the Federal Trade Commission - not the FCC - with handling complaints.
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.
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