BREAKING NEWS Judge blocks federal executions; administration will appeal Full Story

As California firefighters battled the state's largest wildfire, Verizon throttled their data

A Northern California fire department says Verizon slowed its wireless data speeds to a crawl last month, re...

Posted: Aug 23, 2018 8:22 AM
Updated: Aug 23, 2018 8:22 AM

A Northern California fire department says Verizon slowed its wireless data speeds to a crawl last month, rendering some of its high-tech tracking equipment almost useless as firefighters battled the largest wildfire in state history.

In an August 20 court filing, Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden said his department relies on internet services to keep track of fast-moving fires and coordinate resources and efforts among emergency personnel.

"The Internet has become an essential tool in providing fire and emergency response, particularly for events like large fires which require the rapid deployment and organization of thousands of personnel and hundreds of fuel engines, aircraft, and buIldozers," Bowden wrote.

This requires a lot of data. Bowden wrote that his department's OES 5262 mobile communication center sent and received five to 10 gigabytes of data through a wireless router each day while tracking the response to the Mendocino Complex Fire.

That fire has burned 406,532 acres in Northern California.

Service slowed to dial-up speed

The department had an unlimited government plan with Verizon, but the company would slow, or "throttle," data speed once the agency crossed a certain threshold, Bowden wrote.

"In the midst of our response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, County Fire discovered the data connection for OES 5262 was being throttled by Verizon, and data rates had been reduced to 1/200, or less, than the previous speeds. These reduced speeds severely interfered with the OES 5262's ability to function effectively," Bowden wrote.

Santa Clara County Fire Capt. Bill Murphy told CNN that the department's connection speed dropped to what you would expect from a dial-up service, making simple tasks like sending an email or updating a Google document almost impossible.

Verizon: 'We should have lifted speed restriction'

The document included an email chain that showed that the fire department had been working with Verizon to solve the throttling problem before the Mendocino Fires started and that Verizon did not lift the data caps until the fire department paid for a more expensive plan.

In a statement to CNN, Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato said the company made a mistake.

"Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations," she said in an email. "We have done that many times, including for emergency personnel responding to these tragic fires. In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us."

She said Verizon is reviewing the situation and "will fix any issues going forward."

Bowden said that his firefighters had to use other agencies' internet connections or their own personal devices to keep their communication system running.

Bowden's statement is included in an addendum to a brief in a federal lawsuit to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules.

Flato told CNN that this is a customer service issue. "This situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court," she said.

An FCC spokeswoman stressed the importance of cooperation.

"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. In addition, we strongly encourage communications providers to waive data allotments in situations involving emergency response," she said.

Firefighters found workaround

Murphy said that firefighters were able to work around the problem by using their own devices, but he is concerned about what will happen if others see their data throttled during an emergency.

"We're putting a lot of information out there for the public to receive and the expectation is that they will get it in a timely fashion," he said. "We believe it's very important that the public have unrestricted access so they can get the information we need them to get."

Murphy says the department still uses Verizon and has added a second provider to ensure redundancies in their system.

Terre Haute
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 73°
Robinson
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 71°
Indianapolis
Few Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 72°
Rockville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 70°
Casey
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 72°
Brazil
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 73°
Marshall
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 73°
Sunny and warm!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Execution day, protesting information

Image

Execution day, a live look hours before the execution

Image

Monday: Mostly sunny with average temperatures. High: 86°

Image

Federal Executions Resuming

Image

TH Women's City Golf Championship

Image

Sunday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Saturday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Ryan Lieberman

Image

Zoe Stewart

Image

WVFCA Friday Night Lights

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 155048

Reported Deaths: 7388
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook955574725
Lake10378428
DuPage9719486
Kane8107281
Will7278326
Winnebago3169106
St. Clair2304144
McHenry2266102
Kankakee143166
Madison119870
Rock Island119430
Unassigned1185201
Kendall106323
Champaign104017
Peoria66630
DeKalb64220
Boone63721
Sangamon53133
Jackson35619
McLean32215
Randolph3157
Ogle3144
Stephenson2856
LaSalle25917
Macon25322
Clinton24616
Union21219
Whiteside21215
Grundy1945
Coles19117
Iroquois1755
Tazewell1758
Knox1700
Adams1691
Williamson1614
Monroe15913
Warren1490
Cass1409
Morgan1344
Henry1161
Jefferson11417
McDonough10815
Lee1072
Vermilion892
Pulaski840
Marion770
Montgomery741
Macoupin693
Douglas610
Perry611
Jo Daviess551
Livingston552
Christian514
Woodford482
Jasper477
Franklin460
Jersey431
Ford421
Clark410
Bureau372
Menard320
Effingham311
Cumberland290
Mercer290
Johnson260
Alexander250
Washington250
Fayette243
Mason240
Moultrie240
Wabash230
Bond222
Carroll212
Hancock211
Logan210
Piatt210
Crawford200
Shelby201
Edgar190
Wayne191
De Witt180
Saline170
Fulton160
Massac160
Schuyler130
Lawrence120
Marshall120
Brown100
White100
Greene90
Richland90
Henderson80
Hamilton70
Pike70
Gallatin60
Stark60
Clay50
Edwards50
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10
Out of IL00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 51612

Reported Deaths: 2760
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12074693
Lake5650249
Elkhart361860
Allen2952134
St. Joseph214869
Hamilton1708101
Cass16459
Hendricks1466100
Johnson1345118
Porter84038
Tippecanoe7799
Vanderburgh7686
Clark71144
Madison67864
LaPorte62328
Howard60758
Bartholomew60145
Kosciusko5824
Marshall5579
Noble52028
Boone49144
LaGrange48610
Jackson4783
Delaware47552
Hancock46836
Shelby45925
Floyd41444
Monroe34828
Morgan34531
Grant32226
Dubois3096
Montgomery29820
Henry29618
Clinton2903
White27610
Dearborn26523
Warrick26129
Vigo2588
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Harrison21822
Greene19632
Miami1942
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1659
Wayne1586
Daviess15117
Perry14910
Steuben1382
Orange13723
Jasper1362
Ripley1347
Franklin1288
Gibson1242
Wabash1163
Carroll1142
Starke1083
Whitley1076
Fayette1067
Newton10110
Huntington942
Jefferson872
Wells821
Randolph804
Fulton731
Jay720
Knox710
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush623
Posey610
Spencer571
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain362
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike120
Unassigned0193