California Lawmakers Demand an Investigation Into Verizon’s Slowdown of Firefighters’ Data

Rep. Nancy Pelosi and 12 others ask the Federal Trade Commission to step in.

Firefighters battle spot fires from the Mendocino Complex Fire.Mark McKenna/ZUMA Wire

Days after California firefighters accused Verizon of slowing down crucial data while they were battling a giant blaze, 13 members of Congress have called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the alleged throttling. 

In July, the Santa Clara County Fire Department was battling the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest in the state’s history, when one of its emergency response vehicles experienced sluggish internet access. Emails filed in federal court this week showed that a Verizon representative confirmed the reduced data speeds but would not lift the throttle, ultimately forcing the fire department to purchase a new data plan at more than twice the cost of the one they’d been using. Verizon attributed its refusal to lift the throttle to a customer service mistake rather than a net neutrality issue, but a Santa Clara County lawyer sharply refuted that claim.

Reps. Anna Eshoo, Nancy Pelosi, and 11 other California House Democrats noted their a letter to the FTC that the Federal Communications Commission’s recent repeal of net neutrality rules essentially forced them to come to the FTC instead. “The FCC has abdicated its jurisdiction over broadband communications and walked away from protecting consumers, including public safety agencies,” the representatives wrote. They asked the FTC to determine if the data throttling was “unfair or deceptive” under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

“It is unacceptable for communications providers to deceive their customers,” they continued. “But when the consumer in question is a government entity tasked with fire and emergency services, we can’t afford to wait a moment longer.”

Read their letter here:

THANK YOU.

We recently wrapped up the crowdfunding campaign for our ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project, and it was a smashing success. About 10,364 readers pitched in with donations averaging $45, and together they contributed about $467,374 toward our $500,000 goal.

That's amazing. We still have donations from letters we sent in the mail coming back to us, so we're on pace to hit—if not exceed—that goal. Thank you so much. We'll keep you posted here as the project ramps up, and you can join the hundreds of readers who have alerted us to corruption to dig into.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.