SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Verizon introduced changes last week when state legislators said they were furious to learn that the telecommunications company had slowed down the Internet service of firefighters as they fought what became the largest natural fire in California.
Verizon said it abolished all restrictions on the speed limit for rescuers fighting forest fires on the West Coast and for people in Hawaii, where rescue teams rescue people from areas that were flooded by Hurricane Lane.
The company promised to lift the restrictions for public security customers and provide full network access to other disasters.
The announcement came hours before the state event selection committee for natural disasters, response, recovery and reconstruction held an informative hearing on the incident.
The goal is to determine "how we ensure that all public safety has the tools they need at some of our most difficult moments in California history that fight these natural disasters," said Monica Limon, a Democrat in Santa Barbara.
Santa Clara County fire brigade said that three weeks ago, Verizon slowed its internet communication at a wildfire command center, paralyzing the data rates of an emergency communication truck and forcing firefighters to use the internet connections from other agencies and their personal mobile phones.
The province revealed the problem last week in a lawsuit filed by 22 state attorneys general who wanted to restore the rules for net neutrality withdrawn by the Federal Communications Commission. The court's charges allege that the delay was caused by the FCC's action, which enables telecommunications to slow the Internet speed to selected customers.
Lawmakers in California are considering a bill that would require Internet companies to restore net neutrality in California, requiring equal access to all customers.
Meanwhile, the American Democratic Leader sent Nancy Pelosi, the American Rep. Anna Eshoo, a high-ranking member of the Energy and Trade Committee, and 11 other Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission stating that Verizon's action was "unacceptable" and that an investigation was required or the "unfair or misleading "practices.
Dave Hickey, Verizon's vice president for corporate and government sales, told lawmakers that the company's mistake had nothing to do with net neutrality.
On the contrary, the province had used up its monthly data capacity under an internet plan with which Verizon could significantly delay the service. The department purchased a government high-speed wireless service that provides an unlimited amount of data at a fixed monthly fee, but the company lowers speeds if the buyer exceeds certain usage levels during that billing cycle.
Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden called an unrestricted data flow crucial for public security, but said that government agencies do not have unlimited resources and try to find an affordable plan that meets their needs.
He also called for more protection of the radio masts in fire-damaged or fire-prone areas in order to maintain critical communication and warnings for residents of the area and for emergency responders.
Bowden said Verizon only restored full speed after the department had subscribed to a more expensive plan.
That did not have to be necessary, Hickey said, because it is the company's policy to immediately remove data speed restrictions when contacting in emergency situations.
He blamed an "operational error" for the fact that the company did not lift the data cap as soon as firefighters named it. Instead, a representative from Verizon told the province to upgrade to a more expensive package.
Verizon will implement a new plan for rural first responders next week without such restrictions and access to data priority, at no extra cost.
Rudolph Reyes, vice president of the West Verizon region and general assistant advisor, read a statement stating that the company "did not live up to our own promise of excellent service and performance when our trial allowed some first-aid workers to queue, fighting against a huge wildfire in California … we're really sorry for that, and we're doing everything we can to ensure that it never happens again. "
Meanwhile, a bipartisan conference committee proposed Friday legislation that would allow California utility companies to sell bonds and pass on costs to customers to cover liability when their equipment starts forest fires.
The proposal for a vote this week contains no controversial proposal, supported by the California government Jerry Brown to reduce the liability of electricity companies.