Firefighters conduct a controlled burn to defend houses against flames from the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, as it continues to spreads towards the town of Upper Lake, California, on August 1, 2018.
"Some officials are also upset that Verizon chose to slow wireless data speeds, restricting data transfers, a practice known as 'throttling".
Despite the concern, this was not a net neutrality issue.
Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato said initially that the company's response to Bowden was a "customer support mistake" and "has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court". In the first case, during the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara, Verizon lifted the data cap in 20 minutes after the department reached out to a company accounts manager.
Bowden's declaration says - and emails provided as attachments to the court documents appear to confirm - that Verizon representatives acknowledged that throttling was occurring and, then, rather than restoring faster speeds, said that to fix the problem, the fire district would need to switch to a data plan that would cost more than twice as much as it was paying at the time.
The county had reached its monthly data capacity under its internet plan that allows Verizon to significantly slow service.
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The Mendocino fire which began on July 27 has consumed almost 407,000 acres, or roughly half the size of Rhode Island, and as of Wednesday it was 74 per cent contained.
Like a teenager who streamed too many YouTube videos and pushed his family's usage above the limits of its data plan, the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District was being throttled by its internet service provider, Verizon.
To make things worse, Bowden adds, "Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling" was curtailing the department's emergency response.
A Northern California fire department said a telecommunications company slowed its internet communications at a crucial command centre set up to help fight one of the state's largest wildfires.
California lawmakers are considering a bill that would require internet companies to restore net neutrality in California, requiring equal data access to all customers.
He says he saw the writing on the wall on this issue past year, and six months ago, filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission over cell companies common practice of throttling, or "speed capping", data.
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"It's important for communications providers and public safety agencies to work together closely to ensure that agencies have communications services that meet their needs, especially in emergency situations".
"I don't want to pay for all that data every month on the off chance that we're going to use it", he said.
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. "For that, we are truly sorry".
As of August 13, wildfires across California had scorched more than 726,000 acres and destroyed at least 2,000 structures, Bowden said in his declaration. "We stand united and will work together to ensure this unsafe practice of throttling first responders will never happen again here in the Golden State".
'In large and complex fires, resource allocation requires immediate information, ' he wrote.
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