Members of Congress demand FTC investigation into Verizon’s throttling of firefighters’ data connections

Multiple members of Congress, including Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission today demanding an investigation into Verizon’s data-throttling practices surrounding emergency response workers. The letter comes after documents filed this week detailed how Verizon throttled firefighters’ data connections while they were battling the Mendocino, California wildfire. The company wouldn’t restore the firefighters’ data speeds until they upgraded their plan at double the price, despite already subscribing to an unlimited plan.

The letters says: “The FTC must investigate whether Verizon and other communications companies are being unfair or deceptive in the services they’re offering to public safety entities, and if so, to determine what remedies are appropriate to ensure our first responders have adequate service when lives are on the line.” It goes on to request that the commission particularly investigate whether Verizon’s actions could be considered “unfair or deceptive” under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

In response to the publication of its actions, Verizon said today that it would no longer cap emergency response workers’ data speeds. It’s also planning to introduce a new plan that’ll better account for the data of these workers during disasters.

Verizon says it will stop throttling emergency responders’ data speeds

Earlier this week it was revealed that Verizon throttled emergency firefighters’ data connections while they battled the Mendocino, California wildfire. Today, Verizon says it’ll ensure “that it never happens again.” The company says it has since removed all speed cap restrictions for first responders on the West Coast and in Hawaii, with the plan to continue doing so during future disasters. Verizon will also launch a new service plan next week that’ll cater to first responders and will feature unlimited data with no caps on mobile solutions. That plan will include priority access.

This time around, Verizon required the California firefighters to upgrade their plan before receiving better access. Documents filed as part of a legal challenge to the FCC’s net neutrality repeal exposed the situation this week. The firefighters had an unlimited plan, but had their speeds throttled to “1/200 or less” after reaching 25GB of use.

Santa Clara County Fire Marshal Anthony Bowden wrote that this “had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services.” It’s great Verizon is trying to make up for this serious mistake, but at the same time, it feels a little forced. The company seemed totally fine to keep forcing emergency responders to fork over cash while they attempted to save lives, at least until the press started covering it.