back to article Fire chief says Verizon throttled department's data in the middle of massive Cali wildfires

Verizon has been accused of throttling the data plan of a California fire department in the midst of the state's worst-ever wildfire. Chief Anthony Bowden of the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District says that [PDF] while his department's Incident Support Unit (OES 5262) was working to coordinate efforts to fight …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All Verizon need now is a fire...

    "I'm sorry we couldn't attend, some greedy bastards cut off our Internet..."

    1. Richocet

      Re: All Verizon need now is a fire...

      I was thinking along the same lines:

      When a fire threatens Verizon property, phone them up and negotiate for a better deal on their data plan.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: All Verizon need now is a fire...

        Better plan? I keep thinking of the firefighter scene in Gangs of New York... Negotiating how much of the fixtures and fittings they get, if they tackle the fire.

    2. Arctic fox
      Flame

      Re: All Verizon need now is a fire...

      What the Fire Dept should do if Verizon's offices in California catch fire is turn up, park the fire tenders in the parking lot and hold a tailgate partly whilst singing "burn baby, burn". Icon? What else in the circumstances?

      1. BillG Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: All Verizon need now is a fire...

        "We made a mistake in how we communicated with our customer..."

        "... we told them the truth."

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: All Verizon need now is a fire...

      In the UK I believe the fire services department can charge for inspection visits if they have concerns (So I am told, however I could be wrong).

      If this is true and they can charge for such services in the US, they should just inspect them whenever they are annoyed and want to annoy someone else.

      1. OurAl

        Re: All Verizon need now is a fire...

        UK fire services cannot charge for statutory inspections, or for provide advice on safety matters.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: All Verizon need now is a fire...

      Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle," Verizon's statement reads.

      So speeds are never reduced, because you can't exceed an allotment of unlimited data??

      Internet access, where unlimited means very definitely limited.

      1. BitDr

        Re: All Verizon need now is a fire...

        This is obviously some special definition of "unlimited". Frankly I'd take 10Mb/s down and 5Mb/s up with zero throttling and all the data that a 24/7 download at 10Mb/s can provide. This nonsense of offering restricted unlimited data has got to go the way of the dinosaurs.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone know where they get fire insurance?

    Probably best to warn them to look into private fire brigade services.

  3. kain preacher Silver badge

    Sorry Verzion that you place is on fire but I can't hear you now .

    Verzion refuse to unthrottle them till they paid doubled

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Herby Silver badge

    Verizon: "We Can"

    "Because we're the phone company"

    Said in a nice "Earnestine the operator" voice. (with recognition of Lily Tomlin).

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Verizon: "We Can"

      yeah their public perception profile is probably pretty poor at the moment

      Verizon blew a great P.R. opportunity. "temporary upgrade" to help in an emergency.

      And the fire department should've gotten an UNLIMITED plan for the firefighters. Then the problem would NOT have been 'a problem'.

      Don't blame net neutrality for this. Even with Obaka's stupid FCC regs in place, Verizon could STILL throttle bandwidth if you went over your plan's data cap. This policy has not been affected at ALL.

      [something that might make sense is a regulation that requires EMERGENCY SERVICES to NOT use any plan with a data cap, thus forcing phone companies to ONLY offer 'unlimited' plans]

      1. F3ar13ss

        Re: Verizon: "We Can"

        Um. You didn't read the Verizon representative's remarks. The fire department DID subscribe to an unlimited plan. Their plan has a data cap for high usage users, and/or high usage months from their unlimited users. This type of plan would be illegal under the previous net neutrality regulations. Or, at least, Verizon couldn't deceptively call it "unlimited." They would have to give it another name more reflective of what it offers.

        Verizon's "other" UNLIMITED plan is one with no throttling. It costs 2.5 times their normal unlimited plan.

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Verizon: "We Can"

        "Don't blame net neutrality for this. Even with Obaka's stupid FCC regs in place, Verizon could STILL throttle bandwidth if you went over your plan's data cap.

        Stop it Bob. You're better than that.

        Yes, nothing to do with net neutrality, and yes, the same thing could have occured under net neutrality.

        Why couldn't you have just said that instead of getting all partisan?

        But as you raise the issue, the mind still boggles to how republicans can equate rules that say "ISPs cannot arse around with your internet traffic" with "government controlling our internet" - I suppose its' bloody commies... Oh no, you're best buds with them now... Errm. bloody Muslims.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Verizon: "We Can"

        @bob.

        Sorry for ll the sheep downvoting you regarding this. I just with they had RTFA.

        It is quite clearly stated in the article that they had unlimited data that would be throttled if they went over X amount. This is not Verizon's fault, This is fully the fault of the person who purchased the contract.

  6. jake Silver badge

    What do you expect?

    If you pay for a certain plan, that's the plan you get. When you exceed it, your use is restricted. That's the way it works. It's called a "contract", you may have heard of them.

    This is purely the fault of whoever is in charge of selecting the service plan, not Verizon ... with the caveat that yes, their customer service department could/should have made an immediate exception due to the emergency.

    Note: I'm no fan of Verizon or any other telco ... and I have the utmost respect tor all the responders working the lines in California's fires (I live in Sonoma). But pu-lease, don't pass the buck, Bowden. Suck it up and admit you made an error in judgement over your department's data needs. Being a firefighter is not a get out of jail free card. What's next? Pay for 1,000 feet of hose and expect to receive 2,000 feet?

    1. Shane Lusby

      Re: What do you expect?

      The problem you are making in judegement here is I am certain the plan they need on a random month is FAR less than what is needed during raging giant wildfires. So are you saying they should over buy in a long term contract that exceeds their needs most of the time?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: What do you expect?

        "So are you saying they should over buy in a long term contract that exceeds their needs most of the time?"

        Hell no! What they should have done is call the vendor and say "we're going into harm's way for a bit, please give us an extension on the bandwidth allotment for the duration. We'll happily pay for it, as it's not in our contract". I'm absolutely certain that Verizon would have been happy to do so ... and PROBABLY would have waived the added fee(s) (think of the advertising!).

        As it is, the computer noted the account was over limit, and set the agreed upon restrictions. No human even entered into the scenario, until the Chief bitched about it. If he had been a little more proactive, he wouldn't have risked his firefighters becoming incommunicado. The dude is placing blame on Verizon to cover his own lack of planning.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          'firefighters are dealing with this type of corp'

          Verizon Execs:

          Indycar sponership costs are a bitch, quick burn the Firemen!

        2. overunder

          Re: What do you expect?

          @jake: I like how you state RTFA and you don't even RTFA. Read paragraph 5.

          @jake: are you human or a script servicing or Verizon; are you Unlimited?

          @jake: what is the meaning of life; what is the meaning of you?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: What do you expect?

            I read para 5. Did you read how they attempted to converse with Verizon? It's in the PDF. The idiots were talking to an email bot. Most people with clues would have called the 24/7 tech support hotline that is thoughtfully provided with all emergency services accounts.

            I wouldn't work for any telco. Almost as bad as working for a government.

        3. mstreet

          Re: What do you expect?

          You actually believe that in an emergency situation like this, when they are trying to organize massive amounts of man-power and information, and set up for emergency evacuations, that whoever is in charge is going to have time to worry if they're exceeding their data?

          They are an integral emergency service, not some teenager streaming crap on his phone.

          This is why hard core capitalism just flat out doesn't work in a properly civilized state.

          Perspective and common sense really are disappearing fast.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: What do you expect?

        So are you saying they should over buy in a long term contract that exceeds their needs most of the time?

        They should have negotiated a contract which would meet their needs. In this case, one that allows for steady low background levels with occasional big peaks for emergencies, which is a pretty standard telecoms pattern. My guess is that no-one thought to put it out to tender with a proper RFP process, they just signed up for some off-the-shelf contract that looked OK. It wasn't.

    2. Nick Stallman

      Re: What do you expect?

      To be fair, they did get an unlimited plan.

      Kinda says in the name of the plan what the data limit should be. Unlimited.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: What do you expect?

        RTFA. "This customer purchased a government contract plan for a high-speed wireless data allotment at a set monthly cost. Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle" They received exactly what they paid for. How can you possibly fault the vendor for delivering on the contract?

        1. Marshalltown

          Re: What do you expect?

          "How can you possibly fault the vendor for delivering on the contract?"

          Easy. Their "plan" resulted in millions of dollars in damge that otherwise would not have been taken. The "unlimited data but slower speed" is outright fraud since you can only have one or the other. The unlimited data "service" conflicts with the extreme reduction in bandwidth that produces a very definite reduction in available data. I can imagine that with this news about 10,000 lawyers are geering up for class action suits. And Verizon will be required to explain in court how the data transmission can be both unlimited and limited. Their defense can only be 'caveat emptor', "the customer should have considered the implications of the fine print more closely. No one could possibly take the work 'unlimited' seriously."

        2. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: What do you expect?

          "RTFA. "This customer purchased a government contract plan for a high-speed wireless data allotment at a set monthly cost. Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle" They received exactly what they paid for. How can you possibly fault the vendor for delivering on the contract?"

          OK. Fire service's response is now: "This is a state emergency. We are now comandeering your premises for the duration of the emergency. We will return it to you when the emergency is over."

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: What do you expect?

            So presumably the next time some PHB provisions a line incorrectly, you lot are going to side with the PHB and claim it was all the line provider's fault? Fascinating.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: What do you expect?

            "This is a state emergency. We are now comandeering your premises for the duration of the emergency. We will return it to you when the emergency is over."

            In the interim we will be conducting firefighter training exercises in it.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: What do you expect?

          "users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment "

          What sort of contorted language can equate having an allotment of data with "unlimited". Apart from anything else, depending on the speed with which the allotment was exceeded the total amount of data that could be transmitted would approach a limit, that of the amount transmittable at the throttled rate over the period of a billing cycle.

          We hear endless complaints about "up to" data rates; limited "unlimited" deals are far more reprehensibly misleading - the first involves the laws of physics, the second a deliberate action by the vendor.

        4. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: What do you expect?

          "How can you possibly fault the vendor for delivering on the contract?"

          From the article (you know, the one you suggest everyone else needs to read):

          "Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations... In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us. This was a customer support mistake."

          It's quite easy to fault the vendor when they freely admit they were, in fact, at fault.

        5. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: What do you expect?

          "They received exactly what they paid for."

          Which part? "users get an unlimited amount of data" or "speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment"? They both can't be true at the same time.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What do you expect?

            "users get an unlimited amount of data" or "speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment"? They both can't be true at the same time.

            WTF? Of course they can. "unlimited data" means exactly that: you can keep on downloading until the cows come home and no-one will ever cut you off. It's completely independent of the speed you download that data at.

            Of course, moving data has a small but finite cost per item, so if you truly expect both quantity and speed to be "unlimited" (within the obvious bounds of the speed of light, so speed can't really ever be "unlimited") then the cost would also have to be unlimited. Would you be OK with that as a condition of your package? I doubt it.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: What do you expect?

              ""unlimited data" means exactly that: you can keep on downloading until the cows come home and no-one will ever cut you off. It's completely independent of the speed you download that data at."

              I disagree entirely.

              What you're talking about is "unlimited service" as in the service won't just be shut off. That's very different than "unlimited data". If the data was truly unlimited, there would be no data cap -- but there is, so it's not unlimited.

              "if you truly expect both quantity and speed to be "unlimited""

              But, of course, I don't -- and neither does anyone else, as near as I can tell. I'm just saying that using the term "unlimited data" is a lie when there is, in fact, a data cap, and ISPs should stop using the term when it isn't true.

              By the way, it is possible to get actual "unlimited data" plans -- as in, you can use the entire allotted bandwidth 24/7. Not from the major consumer ISPs, of course, but such plans exist. They aren't cheap, but they also don't cost an infinite amount of money -- and, per-MB, they are much less expensive than the fake "unlimited data" plans like what Verizon is talking about.

      2. AZump

        Re: What do you expect?

        Data IS unlimited. SPEED is not. Look at every unlimited contract. "Unlimited data at UP TO xG speeds". Just because they throttle you from 100Mb to 10Kb doesnt mean you have to stop using data.

        ...you're more than welcome to download that bluray rip at 9Kbps. No one is stopping you, after all, data is not capped.

        How can folks fail to grasp this concept?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          'How can folks fail to grasp this concept?'

          Going back to the case: It was high-pressure sales tactics that backfired. This BBC report is incredibly damaging to Verizon:

          ~~~~~

          "At the time, news reports were warning that 4,500 buildings were at risk from the Northern California wildfire and that seven firefighters had been injured trying to subdue it.

          "Remove any data throttling... effective immediately," added the department's IT officer in a follow-up message.

          However, rather than doing so, Verizon continued to negotiate a switch to a more expensive contract.

          "Rather than restoring us to an essential data transfer speed, they indicated that County Fire would have to switch to a new data plan at more than twice the cost and they would only remove throttling after we contacted the department that handles billing and switched to the new data plan," said Mr Bowden."

          ~~~~~

          https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-45270854

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: 'How can folks fail to grasp this concept?'

            The BBC is pretty clueless.

            Verizon's PR people kinda put a better spin on it, ie the problem occured because SCCFD didn't read the small print, and spoke to the wrong person. So if the account was flagged as ordinary, the call would get routed to a telesales person who'd have limited options on their screen. So their fix was to regrade the service to a different tariff that didn't have the cap.

            In a perfect world, the AM would have recognised the call was a bit special and escalated it.. Which can be a systems issue, ie it'd need to be escalated promptly to someone who could make the change NOW, rather than follow the normal order flow of issue a new contract, wait for PO, and the order to flow through provisioning and the billing system updated. That's sometimes easier said than done depending on how the order automation is set up and if it's got an option for immediate. Especially when the automation's set up to handle large volumes of simple contracts, not 'specials'.

            (It's also where there can be fun with the Euro system of notifying customers if they're approaching their cap. So that's often an SMS to the subscriber. Which won't help in this case where it's a data SIM stuck in a router at the bottom of the mobile command centre rack. But this customer has/had a fundamentally unreliable solution for a safety-of-life application, and I suspect there's some CYA going on.)

            There were also challenges at the customer end, eg the mail trail trying to get authorisation for a $2/month bill increase. Again in a perfect world, the person talking to Verizon would have the authority to approve that.. And in major incidents, ie when it's a Federal emergency, part of that process is keeping track of costs and invoicing once the dust's settled. And I know Verizon's used to dealing with this kind of incident. I remember when NY flooded watching status updates from Verizon divers doing underwater splices and rigging bypass cables!

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: What do you expect?

          "How can folks fail to grasp this concept?"

          Just because people disagree does NOT mean they do not 'understand'. Agreement is not the same thing as understanding. But you hear that kind of arguing, a form of 'ad hominem' attack on the intelligence of the person who disagrees, in desperation, from those who can't stand that others actually DISAGREE with their superior wisdom. Or whatever. [it reflects a bit of arrogance, I say]

          Maybe that was in the contract, sure, but Verizon would've helped their own corporate image by UNCAPPING the data rate on a temporary basis during the emergency. Maybe THIS has to be part of every government cellular phone contract from now on?

          So regardless of 'grasping the concept', Verizon blew a perfect opportunity to make their company look good, by greedily grubbing for pennies at the expense of missing the 'gold'.

          That being said, the fire department ALSO blew it with their chosen data plan.

          Plenty of 'fault' to go around.

        3. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: What do you expect?

          "How can folks fail to grasp this concept?"

          Oh, I think we're grasping it just fine. We're just acknowledging that the speed affects the amount of data you can use. Telecoms are intentionally deceptive when they say "unlimited data", because they don't offer any such thing. Even if they said the more technically coherent "unlimited data at X speed", they'd be lying if they reduce the speed when you use more than a given amount of data -- doing that is imposing a limit on the amount of data you can use.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What do you expect?

        NS offered, "To be fair, they did get an unlimited plan. Kinda says in the name of the plan what the data limit should be. Unlimited."

        Once upon a time: "Unlimited" = 5 GB per month. After that, they phone you up to cancel your contract entirely. Seriously; not joking. It was about a decade ago, at the colder end of North America. After some legal proceedings, an unexpectedly generous offer of compensation was eventually made and accepted. And now we have some land on a lovely tropical island.

        We call the property, "The Settlement".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'They received exactly what they paid for'

      Wrong! if Verizon had honored this, then the Firefighters would have received this: "'We have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations'."

      This is either policy or not. Plus, from the article side-link, the firefighters are dealing with this type of corp "Verizon was simply selling the data, failing to properly audit its use, and companies have been freely trading in user location data as a result.".

      What's the odds the Firefighters were sold a plan by a high-pressure Verizon salesman that assured them the policy above would be honored: 'Oh, we'd never cross the Fire Dept. You're an emergency service and we serve the community too'!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: 'They received exactly what they paid for'

        If the fire dept. had used the provided support telephone number instead of trying to converse with an email bot, I might agree with you.

      2. ShadowDragon8685

        Re: 'They received exactly what they paid for'

        "Wrong! if Verizon had honored this, then the Firefighters would have received this: "'We have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations'."

        This is either policy or not."

        I expect that that policy didn't exist until suddenly a fire chief is writing to the press complaining that Verizon held them over the (pun intended) coals and forced them to pony up, citing Net Neutrality, and is now risking (nearly) literally everyone in America queueing up to saw their bollocks off.

        Because frankly, well... No matter what anyone thinks of the cops, or the post office, or even EMTs; nobody wants to have firefighters badmouthing them, because EVERYBODY wants the fire brigade to show up when there's, you know, a fire on.

    4. Flywheel Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: What do you expect?

      They paid for unlimited data. In 99% of places this means "without limits". You and Verizon are obviously part of the 1% that don't understand that!

      1. SolidSquid

        Re: What do you expect?

        I agree it's pretty bullshit, but it sounds like they agreed to unlimited data but limited speeds, including throttling when it went over a certain limit. Why the hell Verizon didn't have something in place to flag up this kind of thing when it's an emergency service (since they're probably a bit preoccupied with the whole massive wildfire thing to think about data throttling) I have no idea though

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What do you expect?

        They paid for unlimited data. In 99% of places this means "without limits". You and Verizon are obviously part of the 1% that don't understand that!

        "Unlimited data" doesn't mean "Unlimited speeds". Every data contract that I have seen includes a "fair use" clause which says that they will continue to provide unlimited access, but beyond a certain cap they will slow down the data rate. My mobile phone plan gives me 100GB/month at 4G speeds, and if I exceed that I go to the back of the queue for priority. I can still download data, though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What do you expect?

          ""Unlimited data" doesn't mean "Unlimited speeds""

          If you throttle someone after xGB of data, basic maths says you are by definition reducing the amount of data they can consume, and it ceases to be "unlimited data" in any meaningful meaning of the phrase.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What do you expect?

            If you throttle someone after xGB of data, basic maths says you are by definition reducing the amount of data they can consume, and it ceases to be "unlimited data" in any meaningful meaning of the phrase.

            You appear to be redefining "unlimited data" as "unlimited bandwith", they are not the same. Throttling someone doesn't limit the amount of data they can consume in total, merely the amount they can consume in a given time period and there is always going to be a limit on the amount of data you can obtain in any given time from basic physics. You're never going to get 10GB/s through a 100Mbit/s pipe. An unlimited plan may be expected to give you access to all the data you can consume (i.e. no cap after "x" TB) but it cannot possibly claim to be unlimited in the rate at which you consume that data, and I've never seen one that is.

            1. dbtx Bronze badge
              Coat

              "a given time period"

              It doesn't matter. As long as we are talking about billing cycles, data and bandwidth are practically interchangeable. When you're computing on a hard power budget, performance per watt equals performance. Here is the same-thing-only-different. Nobody said anything about bandwidth being unlimited-- whether theoretically or realistically. They said everything about bandwidth being artificially crippled and 'unlimited data' being a falsehood anyway.

              "Throttling someone doesn't limit the amount of data they can consume in total" Yeah, it absolutely does, and not just because your entire mortal existence is ...a given time period.

              If I didn't have the 8GB cap, I could probably download almost 5 TB each month-- but it is capped, so I get less than 50GB. (8GB at "4G speeds" which might be 2MB/s for <1 day, ~36GB at 15KB/s for the remaining 4 weeks) It's a data cap even if its implementation is a bandwidth cap.

              1. Cuddles Silver badge

                Re: "a given time period"

                It's also worth remembering that all throttling is not equal. If someone is on a shiny FttP connection at 300 Mbps and gets throttled to 80 Mbps once they've downloaded a certain amount, that's probably not the end of the world since they're still getting the equivalent of a FttC service that's more than sufficient for the average household even if it's not quite as much as they'd like. On the other hand, if they're throttled to 56 kbps, that's low enough to make the modern internet essentially unusable; it may be technically called throttling, but it's equivalent to simply being cut off entirely.

                In this case, as reported by the BBC at least, speeds were reduced to 200 kbps. It's not quite dialup, but it is slower than even 2G EDGE is capable of, and far less than is required to actually use the internet. If your electricity supplier decided you'd used too much power and restricted you to enough to power a single LED lightbulb, most people wouldn't consider that acceptable throttling since it's functionally no different from simply being cut off entirely. Similarly, many people are willing to accept bandwidth limits as long as those limits are reasonable and allow them to continue using the service in a reduced capacity. Cutting the service off in everything but name is not throttling, it's simply holding the customer to ransom.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: What do you expect?

          "Every data contract that I have seen includes a "fair use" clause which says that they will continue to provide unlimited access, but beyond a certain cap they will slow down the data rate. "

          Such contracts have been repeatedly ruled illegal in Europe.

          Fair use clauses over here are such that if a customer's usage is extraordinary the company is _olbliged_ to contact the customer before doing anything at all to their connection.

          In any case this year's outliers are next year's ordinary bandwidth users.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What do you expect?

            Such contracts have been repeatedly ruled illegal in Europe.

            Citation please? I am in Europe, and my cellphone data plan is quite clear, 100GB/month at full 4G speeds, potentially reduced speed beyond that. Nothing illegal or unreasonable about it.

            Fair use clauses over here are such that if a customer's usage is extraordinary the company is _olbliged_ to contact the customer before doing anything at all to their connection.

            No, the company is obliged to contact the user when they are heading for an unexpectedly large bill. If the contract says your data rate is capped after a certain point, then that is perfectly legal.

        3. Just Enough

          All You Can Eat

          I went to an "all you can eat" restaurant the other day. You could describe it as "unlimited" food.

          Imagine my surprise when after I'd consumed my first starter, (a rather dry bruschetta, to be honest) I was informed that I could indeed eat all I wished, but the kitchen would only be serving one pea an hour from then on.

          To be fair, they didn't say I could "eat at any speed". So I have absolutely nothing to complain about.

          1. Justicesays
            Mushroom

            Fair use...

            "includes a "fair use" clause"

            I dunno, maybe critical emergency service usage during a state emergency could be considered a "fair use" regardless of how much over a normal amount it is?

            If you asked all the other subscribers whose houses are on fire they would probably agree.

        4. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: What do you expect?

          "Unlimited data" doesn't mean "Unlimited speeds"

          If I buy an "unlimited data" at a given speed, that would mean that I can transfer data at that speed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if I wish. If I can't, then it's not an "unlimited data" at all. The second that the telecom is throttling my speed, they are reducing the amount of data I can use.

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: What do you expect?

      I expect that "unlimited" is unlimited, not "limited by a bandwidth cap"

      This is weasel wording of the highest order and something that the regulators (eventually) came down hard on over this side of the Atlantic.

    6. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: What do you expect?

      It was 'unlimited' as far as they knew and......

      .....the situation was a National Emergency -- a state of emergency was declared at both the state and federal level.

      Those of us who have some memory of the Post Office's national phone network in the UK would know about something called a Preference Key. This was a switch that when activated restricted access to the phone network to a selected group of numbers belonging to the emergency services, hospitals, doctors and the like. It was used during an emergency -- fire, flood, air raids, whatever -- to make sure that the network was always available to meet the needs of the public as a whole. I daresay the Bell System had something similar but now we're Strictly Commercial there's probably no better time to try to make an extra buck even if it does cause a bit of a public relations disaster.

      This isn't the first time this has happened.

  7. Steve Knox
    FAIL

    Even their "good" practice is bad.

    "Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations."

    Then why implement the data speed restrictions in the first place? Why make emergencies worse by putting up an entirely artificial barrier to efficient resolution?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Even their "good" practice is bad.

      "Then why implement the data speed restrictions in the first place?"

      Because 99.99%[0] of all firefighters aren't involved in fighting wildfires in California, and thus don't have a need for the extra bandwidth? Do you have a 8" water main for your personal household use?

      "Why make emergencies worse by putting up an entirely artificial barrier to efficient resolution?"

      Why didn't the Department call their provider and say "We're heading into the worst fire California has ever seen, any chance of upping our plan for the duration of the emergency?". Placing this on Verizon's shoulders is about as bad as blaming Exon when you run out of gas on the freeway.

      [0] Number pulled out of my ass, but I'll bet I'm not far off!

      1. Marshalltown

        Re: Even their "good" practice is bad.

        You would lose. Firefighters - hundreds - were being pulled in from other states. You can't strip other counties and cities of their personne just because they don't have a fire at this particular moment. California city fire departments have a fiveminute response goal. AND - every fire is an emergency, meaning the the only rational interpretation of Verizon's "policy" is that emergency serives have no throttling, ever. But they did.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Even their "good" practice is bad.

          the only rational interpretation of Verizon's "policy" is that emergency serives have no throttling, ever. <

          And did the fire service have some identified "emergency services" contract with Verizon which contained that clause, or had they just signed up to a standard data plan and assumed it would be OK to exceed the limits if they needed to?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Even their "good" practice is bad.

        "Why didn't the Department call their provider and say "We're heading into the worst fire California has ever seen, any chance of upping our plan for the duration of the emergency?"."

        Probably because, (a) the number of people aware of this limitation was likely limited to those involved with procument, and (b) their mobile data contract probably wasn't the first thing in their minds when preparing to deal with a fire.

      3. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: Even their "good" practice is bad.(@ Jake)

        "Because 99.99%[0] of all firefighters aren't involved in fighting wildfires in California,..."

        In the context of the Santa Clara County in the time frame of the discussed emergency, your statement is both patently false AND disingenuous.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Go

          Re: Even their "good" practice is bad.(@ Jake)

          People, people relax please. This is America. Expect the forthcoming flurry of lawsuits from Santa Clarans suing Verizon for the fact that throttling the emergency services data allowance prevented the fire departments from doing their job, and that therefore Verizon were directly responsible for the loss of the Santa Clarans homes and properties.

          After Verizon loses and has to pay out millions, they will change their policies to never again throttle an emergency service.

          See who needs effective oversight of corporations and laws to protect the people. Bah... FCC? Who needs an independent, working one of those... /Sarcasm

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Even their "good" practice is bad.(@ Jake)

          "Because 99.99%[0] of all firefighters aren't involved in fighting wildfires in California,..."

          If you know any thing about the area you would know that fire fighters in the bay area are more likely to respond w to wild land fires . Scratch that fire fighters in California are highly likely to be involved in at least one wild land fire a season

    2. overunder

      Re: Even their "good" practice is bad.

      "Then why implement the data speed restrictions in the first place?"

      It's a good question. After this incident you'd think that any and all emergency services wouldn't have a throttle that is automatically imposed. If they hit the limit, prorate them after the fact, not before people are KILLED!

      If there ever was a perfect situation for prorating costs of high-speed data, I'd say emergency services would literally be the highlighting case, above and beyond every other possible service.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Even their "good" practice is bad.

        @overunder - spot on, sort this out after the emergency.

        VZ have shown themselves to care more about a few dollars 'now' than public safety.

  8. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge
    Flame

    "appraised them of the situation"

    It's "apprised."

    http://grammarist.com/usage/appraise-apprise/

    Also... "reached out", "going forward", "1/200 or less than", "a mistake in how we communicated with our customer about the terms of its plan".

    Only one way to deal with these: kill them with fire. It's the only way to be sure.

  9. Long John Brass Silver badge
    WTF?

    Unlimited; that word does not mean what you think it means

    This customer purchased a government contract plan for a high-speed wireless data allotment at a set monthly cost. Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle

    To be fair if the fire department only pays for the cheapest plan available then what do they expect to happen? And reading closer I see "data allotment at a set monthly cost".

    Corporate double speak ... do you want a unlimited limited plan or a limited unlimited plan?

    Still bit of a dick move on Verizons' part.

    1. Sampler

      Re: Unlimited; that word does not mean what you think it means

      Coming to post the same thing - it's amazing that in the same breath they refer to them having unlimited data, up to a limit...

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: Unlimited; that word does not mean what you think it means

        Verizon was true to its word: unlimited data, nothing was said about unlimited speed.

        1. Steve Knox
          Mushroom

          Re: Unlimited; that word does not mean what you think it means

          Verizon was true to its word: unlimited data, nothing was said about unlimited speed.

          Are you a troll or an idiot? The latter is a derivative of the former over time. You cannot limit one without limiting the other.

          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: Unlimited; that word does not mean what you think it means

            Are you a troll or an idiot? The latter is a derivative of the former over time. You cannot limit one without limiting the other.

            Steve, where have you ever seen a connection with literally unlimited bandwidth? There isn't one. So even from step one you have a limit on the amount of data you can transfer, since you (I'm singling you out, but there seem to be dozens more) seem to want to be arsey about it.

            WHAT? WHAT??! I can't download unlimited amounts of data in my billing month because it's only a 100Mb/1Gb/10Gb/1Tb/whatever pipe??! BASTARDS! I shall write a firm letter to the editor!

            Sincerely,

            Outraged of Ormiston.

            I don't get that it can be so difficult to understand that contracturally they can still download, and download as much as they like, only slower. It's not what the fire department need right now, but it's what they're contracted to. Sure, Verizon aren't doing themselves any favours by not opening the taps, but it sounds like the FD have been talking to the wrong people. Besides which, when did Verizon ever give a shit what people think about them?

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Unlimited; that word does not mean what you think it means

      Still bit of a dick move on Verizons' part.

      Disclaimer: I've worked for Verizon. Not on the mobile side though.

      I've also worked on government contracts and emergency/critical infrastructure bids. Including one for dear'ol Labours proposal to consolidate the UK's fire control centres into 5(?) with one bidder wanting to hang those off commodity ADSL.

      But YGWYPF. OES5262 is Santa Clara's whizzy mobile command post filled with screens, machines that go bing and possibly media types. And it's connected to the world via a $39.99/month general purpose mobile data plan that mentioned throttling after 25GB of data. The Verizon AM pointed out there's a different public safety option, but SCCFD defaulted to stroppy customer demanding a fix now!

      So a sadly familiar situation where a customer has been penny wise, but pound (or dollar) foolish, and the situation could potentially have been a lot worse. So in an emergency, lots of people tend to go for their phones. So congestion on cell towers and possible blocking of 'emergency' trafffic. But there's an option to put cells into selective availability mode so they'll prioritise emergency traffic.. Assuming it can identify that traffic. And being a large-scale fire, no doubt cell towers burned down and buried infrastructure & street cabs may have been damaged. So again relying on commodity mobile may be a bad idea. Especially when a crisis also involves bureaucracy, ie SCCFD needing to pay an extra $2/month and a sales bod being able to possibly bypass an order entry system to get an expedited plan change. That can be a lot harder than customers think.

      Luckily there are alternatives, ie making sure SIMs are identified as public safety, and ideally having a backup plan like Ka or Ku-band satellite or other radio access available. But basically the customer got the contract wrong.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Unlimited; that word does not mean what you think it means

        "And it's connected to the world via a $39.99/month general purpose mobile data plan that mentioned throttling after 25GB of data. "

        Such a plan is NOT "unlimited" and painting it as such is false advertising.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Unlimited; that word does not mean what you think it means

          Such a plan is NOT "unlimited" and painting it as such is false advertising.

          Maybe. Where's the contract though? The filing shows the FD were aware of the 25GB allowance, and said they'd had this issue in the past.. But not how that was resolved. It's still down to what was in the contract they signed. That in itself may have complications, ie it was a government special rate. If that was part of the US GSA deal, that was the result of a long and painful bidding process to create a tightly (or too narrowly) defined set of services that can't be varied on pain of a GAO audit.

          But again.. Santa Clara's major incident response unit relied on a commodity, basic mobile Internet connection. The FCC may want to ask them why, and what contigency plans they have for loss of that service. Like in a fire.

          Or.. Why the FD didn't work with Verizon's public sector team to get this (and probably other) services flagged as public safety/critical infrastructure lines. All incumbents and any decent telcos have some form of crisis team (Verizon's used to be called CRISIS) that in the event of any major incident would work with public safety folks to prioritise service, or restore critical connections. That triggers field & network engineers, ops managers, system superusers etc to deal with any major incidents. That can include truck rolls to set up emergency cell sites, bypass networks etc.

          But that's a more expensive service than just ordering a stock data SIM. The filing shows the FD was perhaps negligent in designing their incident response plans.. And also should have redacted the service info from the filing.

  10. Halcin
    Mushroom

    Free Market Capitalism

    As the US is the champion of Free Market Capitalism why don't the Fire Fighters exercise their freedom to choose... Oh.

  11. Nolveys Silver badge

    We are sorry about the limitations of your unlimited plan...

    However, in the immortal words of Enron, "Burn, baby, burn".

  12. heyrick Silver badge

    All these people agreeing with Verizon...

    When I was 14, there was a storm. Not a hurricane, Michael Fish said so. Either way it was catastrophic. I was at boarding school in a rural place surrounded by woodland, most of which was lying on the ground.

    That morning, BT was out with chainsaws and stuff, hooking up the phone lines. It took nearly a week before we had electricity. Yet the phone lines worked by mid morning. Impressive given it was a temporary exchange (the real one was destroyed by a tree). At school and in the village, not a single one of the payphones charged for calls, all day. So with this being repeated in other parts of the country, we could all phone home to say we were okay.

    When a natural disaster occurs, a service provider has a choice. To do the morally right thing and forgo the usual tariffs and billing for those directly involved (it's not like it is going to break their business), or be dicks about it.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: All these people agreeing with Verizon...

      Repeat after me "Testimonial is not the plural of data".

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: All these people agreeing with Verizon...

        "Repeat after me "Testimonial is not the plural of data"."

        From your comments on here you are clearly an idiot. But we can add 'illiterate' to the list. Testimonial is not the plural of anything, you fuckwit. You meant, 'The plural of testimonial is not data', but you failed even to manage to type an insult correctly.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: All these people agreeing with Verizon...

          No DavCrav, I typed what I typed for a reason, Think about it for a bit in the context of what I was replying to, maybe my meaning will come to you. Until then, carry on with the Ad Hominims if it makes you feel better.

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: All these people agreeing with Verizon...

            carry on with the Ad Hominims

            I think you mean ad hominem. I'm not sure what the plural is (maybe it's "testimonial").

            If it means anything, "ad hominims" means "to the ape-men".

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: All these people agreeing with Verizon...

      Lets hope Openreach management still have this level of public service ethics. (BTs wire pulling sub-division is now a separate company)

      From article >> the telco admitted to throttling the connection and wouldn't restore the emergency service's bandwidth unless they agreed to purchase an upgraded service plan.<< this sounds like sueball heaven to lawyers.

      Can the county prosecute for this 'deliberate interference' that put public & public servants lives at risk.

      If the delay in resuming communications can be shown to have caused material loss, can the residents use this to sue VZ under Californian law.

      1. Vince

        Re: All these people agreeing with Verizon...

        Just a point of clarification - the “wire pulling” bit of BT, by which I think you mean Openreach is not s different company. It’s also BT plc.

        Legally separated operationally, but not independent, not a separate company etc

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: All these people agreeing with Verizon...

          "Legally separated operationally, but not independent, not a separate company etc"

          And most certainly _not_ in control of the ducts. That remains firmly under control of BT mothership.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: All these people agreeing with Verizon...

      I wonder if BT would do the same today if a similar disaster happened. On current evidence it seems that any remaining public service ethos has been comprehensively stamped out.

    4. Dal90

      Re: All these people agreeing with Verizon...

      >When I was 14, there was a storm. Not a hurricane, Michael Fish

      >said so. Either way it was catastrophic. I was at boarding school

      >in a rural place surrounded by woodland, most of which was

      >lying on the ground.

      >

      >That morning, BT was out with chainsaws and stuff, hooking up

      >the phone lines. It took nearly a week before we had electricity.

      >Yet the phone lines worked by mid morning.

      I have throw actual hurricanes. The last two had 100% power loss to my town, with 7 days to reach 50% restoration (and nearly 100% in 10 days)

      Vz Wireless was the only service to remain running uninterrupted.

      Cable dropped immediately.

      Wireless, other than Vz, dropped in 12 to 36 hours.

      Most land line coverage ceased about 48 hours.

      Wireless and landline service did not largely get restored until 5-6 days into the event barely ahead of commercial power restoration as the companies scrambled to get mobile generators towed in and connected.

      We do not have the landline telephone system of the 1980s anymore. If you live more then DSL distance from a Central Office (roughly three miles by however the wire goes) you don't connect to a site with large batteries and big generators. You connect to a Neighborhood Concentrator that takes the copper and transfers it to fiberoptics for the run to the CO and they only have modest battery backups. Likely in urban areas even when you could home run to the central office, they'll use NCs even within the three mile limit of DSL.

      That the commercial communications grid is reliant on commercial power out at the towers & concentrators is one reason my state (Connecticut) has slowly been building out its own government fiberoptic system. Communication cables rarely break, so as long as you have generators at the town hall / fire station / school to power the lasers the network stays up...unlike cable, telephone, or wireless phones these days.

  13. abubasim

    Unlimited is limited?

    "Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle," Verizon's statement reads."

    If there is an allotment then it is not unlimited. That is at least how it works where I live (not USA).

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Unlimited is limited?

      ::sighs::

      Yes. It is limited. Or does your so-called "unlimited" account allow you to transfer the entire contents of google's sewers plus the Library of Congress several billions of times per second, should you have such a need? No? Why not? Is it actually limited after all? Are you going to sue your provider, now that I've pointed out this inconvenient truth? Or are the laws of physics different in (not USA)?

      1. abubasim

        Re: Unlimited is limited?

        What does an ISP's greed have to do with the law of physics?

        No, my ISP does not have a cap. Maybe it's because this market (I'm an expat living in Oman) is very young, but at least for now, their definition of 'unlimited' is true to the word.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle"

    Bollocks. Since when is "unlimited" limited by an "allotment"?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Bollocks back at you.

      Since the Dept. signed the contract that said just exactly that.

      My mind absolutely boggles at the number of people here who apparently don't understand that the wording on a contract actually matters.

      Hint: A contract means what it says it means, not what you wish it means.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: A contract means what it says it means, not what you wish it means.

        What's more important jake? Human life or contracts?

        1. John G Imrie Silver badge

          What's more important jake? Human life or contracts?

          Contracts,

          yours the management.

        2. sabroni Silver badge

          Re: A contract means what it says it means, not what you wish it means.

          The point I'm making is, if you're selling an internet connection to the emergency services you shouldn't offer them something that can throttle them in the middle of an emergency. A good salesman gives the punter the best product for their requirements not the best product for the salesman's commission.

          It should be illegal for Verizon to provide this kind of product to the emergency services. Emergency services are too important for this bullshit.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: A contract means what it says it means, not what you wish it means.

            "A good salesman gives the punter the best product for their requirements not the best product for the salesman's commission."

            Sadly, these days a good salesman is one who sells the best product for the his commission.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: A contract means what it says it means, not what you wish it means.

              "Sadly, these days a good salesman is one who sells the best product for the his commission."

              No, that's a bad salesman. It's an easy mistake, though, since there are precious few good salespeople anymore, and an infinitesimal number of good salespeople who work for commission.

          2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: A contract means what it says it means, not what you wish it means.

            The point I'm making is, if you're selling an internet connection to the emergency services you shouldn't offer them something that can throttle them in the middle of an emergency.

            Verizon has quite a few million mobile subscribers, and much of the sales process is automated. It being a cut-throat commodity product. But there's also a responsibility on the customer to make sure they're buying the right product. So a $37.99/month plan vs a $39.99/month plan. The $2 saving seems to have changed the definition of 'unlimited'. We don't know how the sales (or more importantly, pre-sales) process went in this case to understand if the customer was badly advised, or just signed up for the cheapest option they could find without reading the small print.

            The filing does mention they had this problem before, so kinda begs the question why the FD didn't move onto a more appropriate plan.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A contract means what it says it means, not what you wish it means.

            It should be illegal for Verizon to provide this kind of product to the emergency services. Emergency services are too important for this bullshit.

            So make it a legal requirement for the emergency services to have someone competent negotiate their communications services. If you buy the wrong thing it isn't the suppliers fault if it doewsn't do what you need.

        3. jake Silver badge

          Re: A contract means what it says it means, not what you wish it means.

          Oh, sabroni. Lose the holier than thou act. It clashes with your hostility.

          1. sabroni Silver badge

            Re: Lose the holier than thou act. It clashes with your hostility.

            What act? I genuinely don't think money is the most important thing, if I did I'd be earning a fuck sight more working for much dodgier people.

            If thinking that people's lives are more important than contract law makes me holier than you maybe you're the one with the issue?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Lose the holier than thou act. It clashes with your hostility.

              If thinking that people's lives are more important than contract law makes me holier than you maybe you're the one with the issue?

              How on earth do you reach that conclusion from a situation where the Fire Department signed up to a poor contract, and then apparently faield to contact the right people in Verizon to have the limit removed?

              These days most technical conditions are controlled by automated systems. If the computer that processed the FD usage detected that it had hit the limit, it would just have done what it's programmed to do for that sort of contract, throttle. I doubt very much if Verizon's mamagement systems reads the papers to learn about wildfires, so until the FD finally called the right person (which apparently took them some time) no-one with the power to change anything at Verizon knew that there was a problem.

            2. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Lose the holier than thou act. It clashes with your hostility.

              "I genuinely don't think money is the most important thing"

              I agree. I don't think it's even in the top 5 most important things.

      2. Marshalltown

        Re: Bollocks back at you.

        "Since the Dept. signed the contract that said just exactly that." Actually the contract says two mutually exclusive things, and worse, applied them to a contract with emergency services. Besides that, we also have this from Verizon: "Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations. ..." Since every fire is an emergency, or has to be treated as such by the responding fire department(s) until shown to be a hoax or something, there should never be a limit on data speed, according to Verizon's own words.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bollocks back at you.

        "My mind absolutely boggles at the number of people here who apparently don't understand that the wording on a contract actually matters."

        Probably because some of us are in the UK (or other jurisdictions), where sometimes, the wording on the contract is utterly irrelevant if it is contradicted by more obvious claims, e.g. marketing (for consumer contracts). For example if the marketing blurb says "unlimited free cake", and the contract says "one free cake per customer per year", then that clause is actually entirely invalid, and the marketing claim will be applied.

        Or, for a real judge-rendered example, if you put something on Kickstarter and say everywhere that you are "buying" something, but in the terms you put that you are merely "investing" and "may" get a "reward", then ... it's a contract for sale, not a contract for investment.

      4. mstreet

        Re: Bollocks back at you.

        "My mind absolutely boggles at the number of people here who apparently don't understand that the wording on a contract actually matters."

        As does mine by your inability to realize the contract shouldn't have meant squat in the middle of a state emergency.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bollocks back at you.

          As does mine by your inability to realize the contract shouldn't have meant squat in the middle of a state emergency.

          And Verizon has said that it wouldn't have meant anything if someone in the Fire Department had called the right number at Verizon to tell them there was a problem

  15. Christian Berger Silver badge

    We are actually missing the worst part here

    In the linked document it says, that Verizon actually said that they would only remove the throttling after they move to a more expensive contract!

    BTW this is not likely to have any consequences for Verizon, they are a monopolist and do not care about how they are seen in the public.

    1. Marshalltown

      Re: We are actually missing the worst part here

      Don't bet on it. This news has "class action" all over it. Lawyers will be lining up to find people who claim property damage or personal injury that can "plausibly" be tied to Verizon's _deliberate_ hampering of the fire's management. That is, to all appearances, Verizon's actions made the fires worse. The fact that Verizon actually profitted from that will look really bad to any jury in California (fires are much more of a worry than earthquakes). It also resulted in very serious damage in the Mendocino National Forest, meaning a canny Federal lawyer might be working on bill for Verizon right now.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: We are actually missing the worst part here

        "Lawyers will be lining up"

        Yeah and Verizon can just cut them off the net when they do.

  16. jwa

    In the USA when you walk into a shop to buy a mobile phone contract you will find headlines screaming at you that's it unlimited data, on page 37 clause c subsection iv it wil say the first small amount of data is at 4g speeds after which speed will be throttled to dial up modem speeds and you will pay a lot of money for the privilege.

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Yes, and that's actually an improvement...

      ... over getting a tiny amount of data as part of your monthly fee and then having to pay ridiculous sums of money for every kilobyte of data.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Yes, and that's actually an improvement...

        The issue isn't the plan. The issue is the lying about the plan. The deception is certainly not "an improvement".

  17. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward."

    Yup, and the "fix" will be make all firefighters sign up to the most expensive plan.

    With a smile, though.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: "We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward."

      The 'fix' is ordering the right service and making sure it's flagged as a priority service. Last time I was involved in one of these incidents was 7/7 in London. First we knew was a big spike in voice traffic on London switches, then calls from emergency services to implement major incident plan. So call gapping on those exchanges and prioritising emergency services.

      But that kind of prioritisation can't be done unless you know what services (ie lines/numbers) to prioritise. That's all pretty much standard for UK emergency services & all the major telcos.. So procedures to notify of an emergency and kick plans into action without having to go through a regular helpdesk. And it's generally part of telco licence conditions, as well as any safety-of-life service having a plan being a generally Good Thing(tm).

  18. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Well

    This makes the UK's 4G plan (kicked into the long grass I think) look positively competent. It's an emergency service, therefore it should get unlimited voice and data and priority over mere mortals.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Well

      "'s an emergency service, therefore it should get unlimited voice and data and priority over mere mortals."

      This.

      When a hundred thousand people are calling up each other saying "oh my god did you just see..." and dumping selfies of themselves on their WordPress blogs, the one important call is the person using Skype from inside a crushed car having discovered a living occupant and wishing only to say "get the fucking medivac here NOW".

      Emergency services, in a crisis, are all that matters. The rest is noise.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well

      "This makes the UK's 4G plan (kicked into the long grass I think) look positively competent. It's an emergency service, therefore it should get unlimited voice and data and priority over mere mortals."

      During the recent Yorkshire wildfires, there are pictures of BT/EE emergency response vehicles out providing mobile radio towers and extra 4G for the firefighters (I don't think the UK emergency network is 4G but it obviously added more options if one or other signal is iffy)

  19. Miss_X2m1

    I Have Always Hated Verizon....

    I have always hated Verizon, now even more. I hope Verizon burns.

  20. kain preacher Silver badge

    One of the reason why I picked T-mobile is because they only throttle you if you are over a 50 gigss of data AND the cell tower is congested . If you move to a non congested tower you go back to full speed.

  21. DanTUK

    According to the beginning of this article the throttling affected comms with what I imagine is a fire department/emergency service specific application/service. I doubt it would have been difficult for the telco to bake into their contract that data to particular services/destinations are excluded from any form of throttling.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      with what I imagine is a fire department/emergency service specific application/service.

      Don't "imagine", look at the facts. It wasn't. It was a standard contract, because the FD didn't ask Verizon for a special one. So no-one at Verizon know there was a problem at first.

  22. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    The Space Merchants

    How apt that this year marks the 65th anniversary of Kornbluth and Pohl's brilliant novel The Space Merchants. The (IMHO) salient dystopic element of that world is that adherence to a contract has become more important than laws against, say, murder or slavery. In our 2018 version, and accepted by several commenters of this story, adherence to a contract is more important than strictures against public endangerment. Sure, the majority of commenters have expressed some level of outrage, but let's face it, the FBI haven't arrested any company executives. We would be shocked if they did. Yet people often get jailed for various kinds of "fooling around", actions that don't endanger anybody.

    The Space Merchants also has several lines in dystopic biotechnology. They mostly haven't happened yet, but again, parallels with reality are out there for comparison. On the surface, The Space Merchants is an action novel, so can be read with (guilty?) pleasure by those who go for Louis L'Amour or ... Robert Heinlein.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Um...so what does this have to do with net neutrality?

    Fire department should have had the right contract, Verizon should have been more accommodating, blah, blah, blah. I agree with all of those.

    But, per the original article, how does throttling an account that has exceeded contracted bandwidth have anything at all to do with net neutrality?

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Um...so what does this have to do with net neutrality?

      Well.. If you think about it dispationally, Chief Bowden's really saying 'net neutrality is a bad thing.

      So start with the premise that under 'net neutrality, all traffic must be equal. No shaping, throttling, or special treatment.

      So take a major incident. Chief Bowden has a mobile operations centre as a command post. That's reliant on a 4G cell service.

      By it's nature and design, there's a finite amount of capacity available per cell. That's defined by the spectral bandwidth available, ie how many Ghz of radio permitted by the operator's licence. Then there's the connection from the cell site to the network, and then the Internet.

      So by it's nature, a major incident will generate traffic. That may be members of the public live streaming, taking pics for Instagram or just trying to call friends & family to let them know they're ok. Then there may be news channels or freelancers reporting on the event. Bigger ones will have their own satellite links, others may try using 4G to live stream, but using better cameras and horizontal framing. And there may also be other blue light or public services involved.

      Naturally that puts a lot of strain on capacity in that particular cell.. So something's got to give, especially as the cell can cover a large & potentially densely populated area.

      So.. How do you ensure the emergency services work, if you can't shape traffic?

      That's the bit that frustrates me about this filing. In this scenario, traffic to the command centre should have been prioritised, and could have been. It's normal in major incidents to implement restrictions to prioritise emergency traffic*. But that relies on being able to be non-neutral, and also define which services to prioritise. That's normal for MIPs, ie an emergency plan that defines key services and has contacts to cut through account managers and speak to people who can implement a MIP. And as this situation was already a declared emergency, I'd bet there were already Verizon people working on the incident.. But Santa Clara FD presumably didn't know who to speak to.

      *Non-emergency traffic's also a challenge. When 7/7 happened, there was an initial spike outbound from London, presumably from people who were aware of the incident directly. Then once it hit the news, a much larger spike inbound. A lot of that would have been people trying to find out or let others know they were ok... Which for cell traffic, may mean no service until they're outside the principle cell coverage zone. Naturally that's distressing for people who can't connect.

      1. jimbo60

        Re: Um...so what does this have to do with net neutrality?

        Exactly what I was thinking. First, net neutrality has nothing to do with throttling your entire connection because you exceeded contract terms. It is about giving priority to some traffic (like the ISPs own or paying third parties) over other traffic (all the other schmucks), or even lowering priority for some traffic (e.g. political views your ISP disagrees with, video sites hogging bandwidth) below baseline priority.

        This is a situation where the FPD should want to be prioritized above all other traffic. That is the opposite of neutral. And they certainly should be prioritized over all the people doing things like livestreaming the fire from their phones. This seems like the clueless jumping on the neutrality bandwagon for all the wrong reasons.

  24. wessel21

    What is a FLATrate?

    I need every company suable when they sell unlimited "services" which are limited. Because the main idea is f***ing the customer.

  25. Dal90

    This is the opposite of a poster child for net neutrality. You don't want the FD competing for bandwidth with folks doing Facebook Live.

    Had the FD hooked up with the correct division of Verizon, they would have had service with network preemption that gives public safety priority over ordinary consumers during high use times. The Feds have paid Verizon big money over the years to have better backup power supplies than their competitors and to prioritize and preempt other traffic for the benefit of three letter agencies.

    ATT has gotten the award to manage FirstNet to rollout similar enhanced services for public safety.

    Whether this FD chose an ordinary consumer plan because either they were too cheap, or Verizon failed to steer them to the right division & plans is hard to tell -- I'm sure any of the readers here who deal with any of the telecoms in corporate environments know how much of a shit show they can be until issues are escalated several levels.

  26. Marty McFly
    Mushroom

    Bravo Sierra

    If fire departments could just figure out a way to package and deliver the Bravo Sierra that telcos & ISPs produce, they could effectively smother any fire.

  27. Drew Scriver

    Where will it end?

    Where will it end? There was a statement that the contract with Verizon was sufficient for the FD, but it obviously wasn't. Emergency services commonly have overcapacity - most of the time the majority of their equipment sits idle. Why should this be different for service contracts?

    Having said all this, the situation does give Verizon a black eye. Verizon ought to learn from this that they need to create dedicated accounts for customers that provide emergency services that are burstable.

    And emergency responders ought to learn from this that services are not all that dissimilar from tangible equipment.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Where will it end?

      And emergency responders ought to learn from this that services are not all that dissimilar from tangible equipment.

      That's the part a lot of people are missing. The service was unsafe at any speed, and the situation could have been a lot worse, ie deaths and an inquest into what went wrong. So here's a handy tool-

      http://www.city-data.com/towers/cell-Ukiah-California.html

      Showing cell towers around Mendocino. And their sparsity outside populated areas. Command centre rolls up and.. no signal because the nearest cell site's burned down. Then it may be a case of driving around, one eye on the signal strength in search of a connection. The command solution seems to have relied on a 'cloud' system, and a fundamentally vulnerable method to connect to it. And possibly no plan-B in the event of the phones not working. Phone companies deal with that by having mobile base stations that can be deployed in emergencies.. As MIPs go though, this one appears to have had serious deficiencies.

      (I kinda wonder if this fire department suffered the Silicon Valley effect, ie anyone that understood telecomms went to work for other Californian IT companies.)

  28. JohnFen Silver badge

    Not unlimited then

    "Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle,"

    That's not unlimited then. Verizon is engaging in false advertising and representation.

  29. Fatman Silver badge
    FAIL

    Verizon's response

    <quote>In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us. This was a customer support mistake. </quote>

    This is nothing more than PR BULLSHIT designed to deflect the issue.

  30. LowPay

    Hey Verizon

    I smell (your) smoke!

  31. Claptrap314 Bronze badge

    First Intel, now Version--why do you force me to defend them?

    I REALLY don't understand people's attitude here. I don't care if the plan is called "Forever Free Unlimited", the wording of the contract is the ONLY thing that matters. You can bitch about false advertising forever (and in England, I'm told, you might get some relief), but this is not an average consumer.

    Given that I am a Verizon customer (no endorsement), I am quite familiar with this process. I would lay very strong odds that the FD did not tender an RFP at all, because this is EXACTLY the contract I have. You sign up for a standard consumer contract, you get standard consumer service. You want to be special, you better pay for it, because these companies are not charities.

    One difference, though. Whenever I've had a problem, I hit the site, and get quickly passed from the bot to a human. It's not a great system, but it is entirely serviceable. The fire chief screwed up, and is grandstanding this.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: First Intel, now Version--why do you force me to defend them?

      I would lay very strong odds that the FD did not tender an RFP at all, because this is EXACTLY the contract I have. You sign up for a standard consumer contract, you get standard consumer service. You want to be special, you better pay for it, because these companies are not charities.

      I suspect they may have, but for the mobile command unit and possibly services. But the filing states their operations relied on accessing services in the 'Cloud', and mentioned using Google. That created a critical dependency on the cloud services, and thus connectivity to those. So at a sales level, it probably ticked the right boxes as being a 'state of the art' solution utilising the latest IT trends, but more fundamentally...

      What happens if/when you can't connect to those services?

      During drills or small incidents, short durations probably meant they didn't hit the data cap, but in this major event.. They did. And it was utterly predictable based on simple capacity forecasting against the 25GB cap on their data SIM. Again this frustrates me because I've designed solutions for this application. The safer solution is to make sure you can use whatever capacity is available.

      For really major incidents, like FEMA truck rolls, they're equipped with mobile radio and data exchanges, satellite and microwave support.. And if the SHTF in a big way, could set up in an exchange/PoP car park and hook directly into network. Or Verizon's emergency trucks. Same works on a smaller scale, ie satellite terminals are cheap on the capex side, and because they're occasional use, capacity on the space segment can be cheap as well, albeit more expensive than a commodity SIM. But it's far more dependable, and standard for the US given it's size, and the challenges of getting connectivity out in the wild.

      So no real excuse for losing connectivity, but there'd also be a need to plan for operating if they lost access to their cloud data, ie local copying or even plain'ol whiteboards.

  32. Scott 1

    I'm guessing the fire department was using an account with a fixed amount of data per month (i.e. 8 GB), and they exceeded that limit. That caused Verizon to switch their account to "safety mode," which is effectively unlimited data at extremely reduced speed.

  33. Maelstorm Bronze badge
    Childcatcher

    What will it take?

    What will it take to reign in these greedy corporate bastards? Someone dying because of their action or inaction. Granted, in THIS case, Verizon owned up to their mistake and made a public apology. Thank God nobody was hurt as a result of their screwup though.

    However, during the late 1990s, US West (before they were bought out by Quest Communications) had a work stoppage (aka strike). During that strike, 911 service went down and a 9 year old child died as a result. The next day the FCC told both US West and the Union (Communications Workers of America) that the strike was over and ordered the workers to return to work. US West was almost fined into the ground for that because ultimately, it was their responsibility to maintain service.

  34. ecofeco Silver badge
    Flame

    Disaster capitalism at its finest

    See title.

    For reference see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shock_Doctrine

  35. Cincinnataroo

    It's a pity that corporations run like that are expanding. Verizon now had Oaf.

    I wonder if pure chance will lend a hand and their offices, and the homes of their executives will start burning down while fire fighters are too busy to do anything.

  36. adam payne Silver badge

    Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle

    An unlimited plan with a difference. Unlimited should mean unlimited, none of this throttling crap after you hit whatever limit they decide.

    This was a customer support mistake. We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward So are you going to put them back on the original plan and refund them? thought not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      An unlimited plan with a difference. Unlimited should mean unlimited, none of this throttling crap after you hit whatever limit they decide.

      I'm sure they'll sell you such a plan if you insist. For an unlimited monthly fee, of course...

  37. LoPath
    Alert

    Oh really?

    Time for AT&T to advertise FirstNet. Oh, Verizon throttled your bandwidth? We built a nationwide network for first responders, as directed by Homeland Security...right over here...

  38. tcmonkey

    This may have been said before (I don’t have time to read every comment here); but why in the blue blazes are an emergency service relying on only single method of communication? They say that it “severely interfered” with their function. Well what if Verizon was down, because, y’know, there’s a fire?

    Whomever set up their communications strategy needs to be shown the door. A fire door, if you will.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks like the comments here are on fire too!

    How exquisitely painful for Verizon. You can be sure that AT&T (with their massive FirstNet public safety gig in the US) are going to make serious hay over this (as well as, ahem, quietly instructing their reps not to get caught in the same tarpit). If I was a Verizon Government sales rep (remember, they are still trying to mop up pieces of public safety business from muni authorities) I would be absolutely screaming right now.

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