Technology

Pelosi calls on FTC to probe Verizon's throttling of firefighters during wildfire

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Verizon's throttling of a California fire department's data as it was battling the largest wildfire in the state's history.

Pelosi led a group of 12 House Democrats representing districts in Northern California in sending a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons on Friday asking him to launch a probe of the incident.

"It is unacceptable for communications providers to deceive their customers, 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," the lawmakers wrote. "The FTC must investigate whether Verizon and other communications companies are being unfair or deceptive in the services they're offering to public safety entities, and if so, to determine what remedies are appropriate to ensure our first responders have adequate service when lives are on the line."

The incident was revealed last week in a sworn statement submitted to a federal appeals court in D.C. as part of a lawsuit to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules.

Fire officials from Santa Clara County, which covers San Jose and much of Silicon Valley, said that while their crews were battling the Mendocino Complex Fire in June, Verizon slowed their download speeds to a fraction of what their unlimited data plan usually allows. Instead of lifting the restriction after officials complained to the company, Verizon's representatives advised the department to switch to a much costlier unlimited data plan.

Verizon apologized for the incident last week and said it had removed all data restrictions for first responders on the West Coast.

A spokesman for Verizon did not respond when asked for comment. An FTC spokesman said the agency had received the letter but declined to comment further.

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