Before answering questions from the State Assembly's Select Committee on Natural Disaster, Response, Recovery and Rebuilding, Reyes revealed that Verizon is immediately lifting all data caps on public safety workers for unlimited data plans in four USA states, including California.
Bowden detailed how the data throttling affected their ability to provide timely responses and coordination in the midst of the massive wildfires, which included the largest ongoing wild fire in California history, the Mendocino Complex Fire. "These are becoming regrettably the norm in our state and as they become the norm we also change how we think about policies".
The controversy began this week when a coalition of Democratic state attorneys general asked a federal appeals court to block the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from overturning its 2015 net neutrality rules.
Some say the issue highlights concerns of net-neutrality supporters, that allowing companies to manipulate their networks can have adverse, unexpected consequences.
A Verizon rep eventually convinced the department to upgrade from a monthly $37.99 data plan to a $99.99 one. Verizon acknowledged it had "made a mistake" and explained that the slowdowns occurred because the fire department had used up too much data, despite being subscribed to an unlimited data plan.
Reduced speeds, Bowden added, had "severely interfered" with the support unit's ability to function effectively and "had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services" during the sprawling Mendocino Complex Fire. Company executives did not immediately respond to questions about the forthcoming plan. This was right in the middle of the department's response to a wildfire, said department chief Anthony Bowden, in an official declaration.
'In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us.
A lawyer for Santa Clara County and its fire department told Ars Technica on Wednesday that it was important to highlight Verizon's use of throttling amid the net neutrality debate because it showed that internet service providers "will act in their economic interests, even at the expense of public safety". Despite pleas from the firefighters, Verizon lifted the cap on data speeds only after Santa Clara agreed to switch to a more expensive data plan. "We were doing the same thing they were doing; we just never got throttled".
"In supporting first responders in the Mendocino fire, we didn't live up to our own promise of service", he said in a statement.
"It really truly is meant for the rigors of first responders and how we need it", he said.
"As everything has been brought to light, as you would imagine, there's a lot of people within Verizon ensuring that we put the right steps forward so that we don't have this type of situation happen again", Dave Hickey, the company's vice president for business and government sales, said at an informational hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on Natural Disaster, Response, Recovery and Rebuilding.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan conference committee could advance compromise legislation Friday to reduce the threat posed by wildfires. Jerry Brown to reduce liability for electric utilities when their equipment causes wildfires, but their plan could include cash to remove dead trees or other measures to make fires less frequent and less severe.