State Legislators send letter to Verizon demanding the practice of throttling data of first responders during disasters be stopped, now, and into the future

Friday, August 24, 2018

Sacramento, CA – In what are now substantiated reports that Verizon Wireless throttled data plans of firefighters while they were battling the Mendocino Complex Fires, California Legislators from across California are calling out the carrier and demanding formal action be taken.

Legislators sent a letter to the CEO of Verizon this afternoon calling for answers and assurances that the safety of first responders, and communities that are threatened by these massive blazes, will not be put in jeopardy so the company can pad their bank accounts.

“This is corporate irresponsibility at its highest and there is no excuse to justify this most egregious behavior,” said Senator Mike McGuire, whose district includes the areas where the Mendocino Complex Fire is burning and the counties the North Bay Firestorm devastated last October. “We need to make sure the safety of our communities, the brave firefighters and all first responders are prioritized over profit for the corporation. We stand united and will work together to ensure this dangerous practice of throttling first responders will never happen again here in the Golden State.”

In court documents submitted in a lawsuit filed against the Federal Communications Commission, Santa Clara County Central Fire District Protection Chief Anthony Bowden described in detail the throttling by Verizon while firefighters responded to the Mendocino Complex Fire – the largest wildfire in our state’s history. After Verizon reduced the fire department’s data speed to 1/200 or less, Bowden’s department reached out to Verizon, who responded that they would need to upgrade their plan at double the cost, and only then would the throttling be lifted.

The letter states: “Lack of communication can be dangerous and deadly. Emergency personnel rely on cell and data technology for critical activities and even small delays can have devastating and life threatening impacts.

Clearly this behavior is a direct violation of your duty under federal statutes governing telecommunications to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity.”

State legislators are asking for a response from the Verizon CEO on a series of questions including, how many times, where and when, they have throttled the data technology of first responders during disasters. The legislature will continue to hold hearings on the throttling issue to examine in detail how and why this dangerous practice happened and how the state can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The letter from California State Legislators to Verizon is attached.