Verizon removes data constraints for CA firefighters after outcry from lawmakers

The company is also rolling out a new plan to remove data caps on first responders nationwide

Verizon removes data constraints for CA firefighters after outcry from lawmakers
Verizon removed data caps for first responders after California lawmakers called the company out. (Source: KTXL)

SACRAMENTO, CA (KTXL/CNN) – If you've ever used too much data on your cellphone, you may have noticed your speed slow to a crawl.

It's called "throttling," and California lawmakers are calling out Verizon for doing it to first responders fighting wildfires.

Verizon removes data constraints for CA firefighters after outcry from lawmakers

Smartphones, laptops and tablets have become vital tools for firefighters to save homes and lives.

That's why California lawmakers were furious to hear a group of Santa Clara firefighters operating a communications post during the Mendocino Complex Fire had their data restricted.

"This is unforgivable. It's inexcusable," said Marc Levine, a California state assemblyman. "This was not a fire drill. This was now the largest fire in California history, and only a year after the most destructive fire in California history."

On Friday, Levine held a fact-finding hearing with the Santa Clara County Fire Department and Verizon executives.

"Most people would agree that we should never be throttling first responders," Levine said.

Verizon executives declined to answer questions from reporters after the meeting.

But Dave Hickey, Verizon's vice president of business and government sales, did read a prepared statement to Levine and other lawmakers, saying "we're making every effort to ensure that [throttling first responders] never happens again."

Hickey said Verizon has removed all speed caps for firefighters on the West Coast and Hawaii, where emergency crews have been working to help people in areas flooded by Tropical Storm Lane.

Hickey and other Verizon executives also answered the committee's questions. However, the Santa Clara firefighters who came to the hearing didn't stick around to hear it.

"There's a lot going on this summer. We're getting back to the Bay Area so that we can get back to our work," said Capt. Bill Murphy of the Santa Clara County Fire Department.

Verizon is also rolling out a new plan to remove data caps on first responders nationwide. It should take effect next week.

Copyright 2018 KTXL via CNN. All rights reserved.