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1,000 First Responders Urge Congress to Restore Net Neutrality After Verizon Throttles California Firefighters During Wildfires

"It is unconscionable for corporations to endanger public safety for the sake of profit."

The California firefighters' union endorsed a state-level net neutrality bill after Verizon throttled a fire department's data speeds while first responders were battling historic wildfires in the state. (Photo: Nick Perla/Flickr/cc)

More than 1,000 first responders from across the country threw their support behind net neutrality protections on Tuesday, with a letter demanding that lawmakers in Congress pass the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to reverse the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s repeal of net neutrality.

"We are joining with millions of businesses, veterans, and Internet users in asking Congress to use their Congressional Review Act (CRA) powers to restore the strong net neutrality rules and other consumer protections that were lost when the FCC voted to repeal its 2015 Open Internet Order," reads an letter endorsed by the internet freedom advocacy group Fight for the Future.

The letter comes days after Californians got a first-hand look at how their lives are already being affected by internet service providers (ISPs) that are unencumbered by net neutrality rules, which prohibit companies like Verizon and Comcast from slowing down internet speeds and creating paid "fast lanes" for wealthy internet companies.

As Common Dreams reported last week, Verizon throttled, or slowed down, data speeds for the Santa Clara County fire department and suggested it should pay an extra fee for faster service—while fire fighters were battling some of California's biggest wildfires ever earlier this summer.  

Verizon's move "had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services," according to fire chief Tony Bowden, and the throttling resulted in a loud endorsement of California's state-level net neutrality bill (SB 822), which the state Assembly could vote on as early as Tuesday, by the California Professional Firefighters (CPF) union.

The incident provoked emergency workers from California as well as other states to urge the passage of the CRA.

"Our call paging system relies on private ISPs to relay information from 911 dispatchers to ambulances—it is unconscionable for corporations to endanger public safety for the sake of profit," said Corey, a paramedic in San Diego, in a personal note added to the open letter.

"EMTs rely on data to receive pages, vital paperwork necessary for patient care, and to help locate calls outside of our service area," added Larry, an EMT based in Little Rock, Arkansas. "Throttling speeds can delay care and cost lives."

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