Verizon Cut A Fire Department's Data (During A Wildfire)

Firefighters have to worry about a lot of things running out -- their water, their oxygen, the space on their shoulders for all those soot-covered orphans, etc. But they really shouldn't have to worry about running out of data. Because when your house is going up in flames, the last thing you want from your town's bravest is to see them wandering around the front yard with their phones in the air, asking you for the WiFi password.

COULD YOU JUST PUT IT IN? IT'S REALLY HARD TO TYPE WITH THESE GLOVES.Pixabay "COULD YOU JUST PUT IT IN? IT'S REALLY HARD TO TYPE WITH THESE GLOVES."

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Not according to Verizon, though. Earlier this month, the company saw it fit to throttle the data of the Santa Clara County Fire Department while it was in the middle of battling the Mendocino Complex Fire -- the largest and most destructive wildfire in California history. Despite having an "unlimited plan," the telecoms company reduced the fire department's data rates to 1/200th of its original speed after its mobile command unit used up a paltry 25 GB doing dumb online stuff like coordinating efforts to fight an ocean of fire.

Slow down. Where's the fire?Flickr "Slow down. Where's the fire?"

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When the department contacted Verizon to politely inform them that they were "actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services," Verizon refused to lift the throttling, informing them they'd just have to get a more expensive plan. Which they eventually were forced to do, doubling their data costs, because they clearly forgot to read the part in Verizon's terms of service where it says that the basic unlimited data plan only allows the saving of ten lives or fewer per month.

Of course, when confronted for its ghoulish gouging, Verizon responded with the hoary old chestnut that it was a "customer report mistake" which had led them to be on the side of brimstone. One that's really hard to fix, apparently, because this was the third time in little over a year that Verizon had done this to the department while it was in the middle of fighting fires. You know the old saying: "When it rains, sell umbrellas. When it rains fire, hold half a county hostage in order to squeeze some more money out of emergency services."

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Because of this, the fire department has added its legal response to the massive lawsuit fighting against the repeal of net neutrality, which they suspect is the main reason these "mistakes" keep happening without any consequences -- further proof that telecom companies are as good at keeping their word as they are at keeping the bars on a firefighter's phone.

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