Verizon Promises To Stop Throttling First Responders

Faced with a public relations debacle, Verizon says it will no longer throttle broadband connections for fire fighters on the West Coast and "first responders" in Hawaii, which is bracing for Hurricane Lane.

"As of yesterday, we removed all speed cap restrictions for first responders on the west coast and in Hawaii," Verizon Senior Vice President Mike Maiorana stated Friday. "Further, in the event of another disaster, Verizon will lift restrictions on public safety customers, providing full network access."

The company's announcement came days after Santa Clara County fire chief Anthony Bowden said in court papers that Verizon throttled service to firefighters who were battling wildfires in Mendocino, California. Bowden said service was slowed to 1/200th of the typical speed this summer, after firefighters had consumed more than 25 Gigabits. Verizon only agreed to restore high-speed connections to the fire department after the county agreed to purchase a more expensive plan, Bowden said.

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The revelations -- which drew nationwide headlines -- came in a lawsuit by 23 attorneys general who are suing to restore the Obama-era net neutrality rules. Those regulations, which are now repealed,  prohibited broadband providers from throttling based on the type of material being transmitted, but didn't outlaw data plans that slow service after customers hit a cap. But the Federal Communications Commission also has "transparency rules" that require broadband providers to disclose their traffic management practices to customers.

Verizon's Maiorana apologized on Friday for the slowdowns. "We didn’t live up to our own promise of service and performance excellence when our process failed some first responders on the line, battling a massive California wildfire," he stated. "For that, we are truly sorry. And we’re making every effort to ensure that it never happens again."

He added that the company plans to introduce a new "unlimited data" plan next week. That plan won't include caps on what he calls "mobile solutions," and will include "priority access," he stated.

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