Verizon throttled emergency data during California wildfires
25 August 2018
The second record breaking fire season in a row has been disastrous for the people of California. With dozens of wildfires continuing to rage across the state, tens of thousands have had to evacuate. Statewide, over 1,100,000 acres have burned, more than seven times the average for this point in the fire season. The speed at which the fires have occurred and the lack of effective emergency planning have resulted in fourteen deaths.
While many workers have lost their homes and lives, telecommunications giant Verizon has seen the disaster as an opportunity to make some extra profits. In the midst of fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest in state history, Verizon began throttling the mobile data of the Santa Clara County Fire Department and began haggling to sell them a more expensive plan. Verizon customer service initially offered to bump their $37.99 a month plan to $39.99 to get the data speeds restored. After the fire department noted it required a plan that does not have “throttling or caps of any kind,” Verizon upsold them to $100 for the first 20 gigabytes (GB) and $8 per GB after.
Fire departments across the state rely on continuous streams of live data to dispatch the limited resources available to combat unprecedented wild fires across the state.
“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,” Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in a public statement.
“The Internet has become an essential tool in providing fire and…