Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

This #GivingTuesday, whatever is your first priority, your second priority has to be independent media.

2021 has been one of the most dangerous and difficult years for independent journalism that we’ve ever seen. Our democracy is facing serial existential threats including the climate emergency, vaccine apartheid amid deadly pandemic, a global crisis for biodiversity, reproductive freedoms under assault, rising authoritarianism worldwide, and corporate-funded corruption of democracy that run beneath all of this. Giving Tuesday is a critical opportunity to make sure our journalism remains funded so that we can stay focused on all your priority issues. Please contribute today to keep Common Dreams alive and growing.

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

Cal Fire firefighters monitor a back fire while battling the Mendocino Complex fire on August 7, 2018 near Lodoga, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Fire Dept Says Verizon Throttling During Deadly Wildfire 'Has Everything to Do With Net Neutrality'

"It shows that the ISPs will act in their economic interests, even at the expense of public safety. That is exactly what the Trump administration's repeal of net neutrality allows and encourages."

Jake Johnson

As California lawmakers prepared on Wednesday for a key committee vote on their state's net neutrality bill—which, in its current form, would restore the protections repealed by the FCC in December—the Santa Clara County Fire Department accused the telecom giant Verizon of dramatically cutting its data speed as it recently fought the largest recorded wildfire in California's history.

"Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling, but 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."
—Anthony Bowden, Santa Clara County Fire Chief

After Verizon admitted that it slowed the fire department's data—a despised practice known as throttling—but claimed it was a simple mistake that "has nothing to do with net neutrality," Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams responded in a statement on behalf of the fire department on Wednesday that "Verizon's throttling has everything to do with net neutrality."

"It shows that the [internet service providers] will act in their economic interests, even at the expense of public safety," Williams added. "That is exactly what the Trump administration's repeal of net neutrality allows and encourages."

Williams' rebuke of Verizon and the Republican-controlled FCC's net neutrality repeal came just a day after the Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden accused Verizon of throttling in a court filing this week. Bowden says his department was forced to pay the telecom giant to stop the throttling, despite having an "unlimited" data plan.

"In the midst of our response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, County Fire discovered the data connection for OES 5262 [a fire department vehicle that is 'deployed to large incidents as a command and control resource'] was being throttled by Verizon, and data rates had been reduced to 1/200, or less, than the previous speeds," Bowden wrote.

"Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling," Bowden added, "but 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."

In a statement responding to Bowden's filing, Verizon insisted that the throttling was a mere customer service error and said it is "reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward."

But Bowden concluded that unless regulatory action is taken, Verizon will continue to exploit emergency situations like wildfires to impose higher costs on the public and reap greater profits.

"In light of our experience, County Fire believes it is likely that Verizon will continue to use the exigent nature of public safety emergencies and catastrophic events to coerce public agencies into higher-cost plans, ultimately paying significantly more for mission-critical service—even if that means risking harm to public safety during negotiations," Bowden concluded.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Omar Hangs Up After Boebert Uses Call to Double Down on 'Outright Bigotry and Hate'

"Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments."

Jessica Corbett ·


Win for Alabama Workers as NLRB Orders New Union Vote After Amazon's Alleged Misconduct

A union leader said the decision confirmed that "Amazon's intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace."

Jessica Corbett ·


'For the Sake of Peace,' Anti-War Groups Demand Biden Return to Nuclear Deal With Iran

"It's time to put differences aside and return to the Iran nuclear deal," said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'That's for Them to Decide': UK Secretary Rebuked for Claiming Vaccine Patent Waiver Won't Be 'Helpful' to Global Poor

One U.K. lawmaker asked when the government would "start putting the need to end this pandemic in front of the financial interests of Big Pharma?"

Andrea Germanos ·


Shell Slammed for Plan to Blast South African Coastline for Oil and Gas During Whale Season

"We cannot allow climate criminals, like Shell, to plunder in the name of greed," said Greenpeace.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo