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Verizon Will Lift Broadband Speed Restrictions in Emergencies

Verizon says it has lifted all broadband "speed cap" restrictions for firefighters on the West Coast, and in Hawaii dealing with Hurricane Lane, and will do so in disaster situations as a general rule going forward.

That came after the company failed to remove the speed restrictions for California firefighters battling the Mendocino fire, a move that drew the ire of firefighters--they said the data slowdown was a safety issue--and the attention of Washington when it was made part of testimony in the challenge to the FCC's rollback of network neutrality rules.

Verizon had already apologized for not lifting the caps, but did so again in a blog Friday (Aug. 24) from Mike Maiorana, SVP of public sector.

"In supporting first responders in the Mendocino fire, we didn’t live up to our own promise of service and performance excellence when our process failed some first responders on the line battling a massive California wildfire," he wrote. "For that, we are truly sorry. And we’re making every effort to ensure that it never happens again.

"As of yesterday, we removed all speed cap restrictions for first responders on the west coast and in Hawaii to support current firefighting and Hurricane Lane efforts. Further, in the event of another disaster, Verizon will lift restrictions on public safety customers, providing full network access," Maiorana said.

In emails included in the FCC filing, Verizon had last month told the fire chief of Santa Clara County, one of the California counties fighting the largest wildfire in the state's history, that it could immediately switch plans to unlimited without the "throttling" of their existing plan.

When Verizon suggests such a plan for "$99.99 for the first 20GB and $8/GB thereafter," a fire department official emails back: "All we need is a plan that does not offer throttling or caps of any kind." Verizon responded that all the unlimited plans have some threshold and then charge by the gig, but some have no throttling of throughput at all, which is what Verizon appeared to offer to switch to immediately.

But now Verizon has made it clear that its policy will be, in effect, to immediately provide full network capability in such emergency situations and ask questions later.

Verizon has been hammered by net neutrality activists over the issue since the FCC filing was made public.