Skip to main content

Verizon Threatens Public Safety with Throttling, Calls It a “Customer Support Mistake”

Brief Filed by Santa Clara County in Challenge to Repeal of FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules Highlights Threats to Public Safety

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Yesterday, the County of Santa Clara, joined by 22 States and the California Public Utilities Commission, filed its brief supporting Net Neutrality in the ongoing litigation to protect the open internet. The brief attached testimony and an email thread from the County Fire Chief, Anthony Bowden, describing how—during the worst wildfire in California history—Verizon throttled the Internet connection of a critical emergency response vehicle

“This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services. Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire’s ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services,” Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in his declaration.

In response, Verizon today claimed that, “[t]his situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court. … This was customer support mistake.” To the contrary, said County Counsel James R. Williams, “Verizon’s throttling has everything to do with net neutrality—it shows that the ISPs will act in their economic interests, even at the expense of public safety. That is exactly what the Trump Administration’s repeal of Net Neutrality allows and encourages.”

Williams added, “in repealing Net Neutrality rules, the Trump Administration failed to consider public safety threats as required by law. For this reason alone, the repeal of Net Neutrality is illegal and must be overturned.”

Fire Chief Bowden’s Declaration can be found here

The County’s brief can be found here.

# # #


About the Net Neutrality Litigation

Net neutrality rules prohibit broadband internet service providers from discriminating against lawful internet traffic—generally by blocking it or slowing it down—for financial or other reasons. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued formal rules protecting net neutrality. These rules offered critical protections for County residents, start-ups, small and large business, and County government. The County has made substantial investments in systems that provide critical health, welfare and safety services over the Internet, and a reversal of the FCC’s net neutrality rules threatens the ability of County residents to access those and other critical web-based services. On December 14, 2017, the FCC (now chaired by Trump appointee Ajit Pai), announced its decision to reverse course and eliminate its net neutrality rules. On February 22, 2018, immediately after the publication of the decision, the County filed a lawsuit challenging the decision to repeal the net neutrality rules. The County filed its Opening Brief in the case on August 20, 2018.

About the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office

The County Counsel serves as legal counsel to the County, its Board of Supervisors and elected officials, every County department and agency, and the County’s boards and commissions. With a staff of 170 employees, including 85 attorneys, the Office of the County Counsel is also responsible for all civil litigation involving the County and its officers. Through its Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section, the Office litigates high-impact cases, drafts innovative local ordinances, and develops policies and programs to advance social and economic justice.

About County Fire

Established in 1947, County Fire provides fire services for Santa Clara County and the communities of Campbell, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga. The department also provides protection for the unincorporated areas adjacent to those cities. Wrapping in an approximately 20-mile arc around the southern end of Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara County Fire Department has grown to include more than a dozen fire stations, an administrative headquarters, a maintenance facility, and five other support facilities, and covers 128.3 square miles. The department employs almost three hundred fire prevention, suppression, investigation, administration, and maintenance personnel; daily emergency response consists of more than sixty employees. Like the County, County Fire relies upon Internet-based systems to provide crucial public safety services.


Media Contact: Kim Forrester, Office of County Counsel, (408) 299-5902.