File Under “We Told You So”

The Guardian,among other publications, recently reported that Verizon “throttled” the presumably unlimited data of California firefighters while they were battling the blazes that were–and still are–engulfing communities in that state.

California firefighters’ ability to battle a huge wildfire was impeded by Verizon Wireless throttling their internet connection, in a moment advocates say demonstrates the high stakes of the battle over net neutrality.

Santa Clara county fire department had paid for what Verizon described as an “unlimited” data plan for various internet-connected devices, but the data flow was throttled to about 1/200th of the typical speed – unusably slow for any meaningful data transfer.

This restriction created problems for a command and control communications vehicle called OES 5262 as firefighters battled the Mendocino Complex fire, the largest wildfire in California’s history, in late July. The vehicle – essentially a fire engine that is fitted with computers and communications equipment – gets internet access via a device that uses a Verizon sim card. It is used as a hub to “track, organize and prioritize routing of resources around the state and country to the sites where they are needed the most”, according to the Santa Clara county fire chief, Anthony Bowden, in a lawsuit over net neutrality protections, first reported by Ars Technica.

Net Neutrality rules put in place under the Obama Administration would have protected the firefighters (or at least provided them with recourse), but those rules were repealed by Ajit Pai, Trump’s appointee to the FCC.  Pai was a former executive at Verizon, and Verizon has been one of the “big telecom” companies lobbying for the repeal.  Pai argued that the net neutrality rules would stifle innovation, and that they had been established on “hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom”.

With Pai at the helm, the FCC simply ignored massive numbers of emails arguing against repeal, and ignored as well a number of surveys that found more than 80% of Americans supporting Net Neutrality.

The July incident wasn’t the first time Verizon had throttled the firefighters’ data connection.

They had previously contacted Verizon in June when they were dealing with the Pawnee fire and December 2017 when they were battling a grass fire near Prado regional park.

According to emails included in court filings, in June 2018, the fire captain Justin Stockman contacted Verizon requesting that the data connection for a critical piece of communications equipment was unthrottled. A Verizon account manager responded by trying to upsell the fire department from a $37.99 plan to a $39.99 plan.

The Santa Clara fire department is part of a larger lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission; the lawsuit seeks to overturn the repeal of net neutrality rules that prevent internet service providers from blocking, throttling and prioritizing customers on the basis of pay. The suit represents plaintiffs in twelve separate lawsuits that were consolidated into a single suit. Those lawsuits were filed by more than three dozen entities, including state attorneys general, consumer advocacy groups, and tech companies.

Probably the best explanation of Net Neutrality–and the consequences of its repeal–can be found by watching comedian John Oliver who has devoted two of his shows to the topic.

I guess it takes a comedian to explain why the loss of Net Neutrality is no laughing matter.

24 thoughts on “File Under “We Told You So”

  1. Truly sad… Corporatists, Republicans and capitalism are stating their philosophy every day: Money is the only consideration for decisions. Add to that the rolling Obama Derangement Syndrome afflicting our already deeply disturbed president and the perfect storm for people suffering is at hand.

    We’ve been fooling around with utilities for decades and the only thing that serves the people is REGULATION BY THE GOVERNMENT. Why? Because, left to their own devices – as with this Verizon idiocy – corporations will try to squeeze every last penny out of its customers while threatening their required necessities of that utility.

    This is one of those incidents that underlines the pitiful approach to governing by Republicans. Come on, man!

    VOTE BLUE at all levels.

  2. “Santa Clara county fire department had paid for what Verizon described as an “unlimited” data plan for various internet-connected devices, but the data flow was throttled to about 1/200th of the typical speed – unusably slow for any meaningful data transfer.”

    This situation appears to be the latest – but not the last – tragedy which points to the primary need for “net neutrality” as a preventive measure to save countless lives. While I am a daily user of Facebook (do not use Twitter) for personal and newsworthy source of communication and the ability to research facts; I am well aware of what should be the primary and unimpeded communication source for authorities at all levels. The deadly California fires are yearly tragedies of unimaginable magnitude and open communication between authorities and all responders should be the primary use of the Internet. It should not become a newsworthy lawsuit as we count up the numbers of the dead.

    Internet was not available in 1993 when the truck bomb was set off in the north tower of the World trade center, killing 6. Nor was it available in 1995 when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols “followed suit” to truck bomb the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168; but open communication between all public safety authorities nationally could have been informative regarding those being watched as possibly dangerous due to their known questionable activities. Of course; we can take that issue back to November 22, 1963, when the FBI and CIA were well aware of Lee Harvey Oswald’s connection to Russia and Communist leaders and that he was in Dallas, Texas, but they did nothing. And, Marv; going back further to our government ignoring the reports of Hitler’s “final solution”. But; I digress.

    The Internet wasn’t available on 9/11 when the World Trade Center was demolished and the area of New York City surrounding it and 3,000 lives were lost. A later report from a security officer in the WTC warned after the 1993 truck bombing that better communication was vitally needed between member of the Fire Departments and Police Department as well as better communication inside both. That did not happen so many responders were unaware of conditions in other areas of the buildings. Somehow air traffic controllers in the United States and Canada managed to clear the skies of thousands of planes already in the air and saved millions of lives; obviously having excellent immediate communication availability. We now have the ability to communicate as never before in the history of the world…including Russia’s ability to use that communication to invade the 2016 presidential election and continue to do so today.

    “The Santa Clara fire department is part of a larger lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission; the lawsuit seeks to overturn the repeal of net neutrality rules that prevent internet service providers from blocking, throttling and prioritizing customers on the basis of pay.”

    As with every issue within and between our own government and, at the highest level, between other nations; lives are being lost while millions of dollars in profit are being made…with the able assistance of the current Republican administration.

    A favorite slogan during WWII was “Loose Lips Sink Ships” points to the negative possibility of communication, but fits with the Robert Mueller investigation of the continuing Russian interference into our elections and our government. Trump (due to his guilty conscience) and his vapid followers view it as a personal investigation of only Trump; missing the importance of uncovering all questionable direct and Internet communication and connections which have brought us to the brink of disaster. Few of us have any doubts that he is at the center of the investigation; however deeply and however many years he has been is within past and continuing Internet communication. File ALL of it under, “I Told You So”; which has probably been bantered about within our government for years and we are just now learning about it, making us victims of the loss of Net Neutrality on many levels.

    VOTE BLUE!

  3. On more than one occasion in the past month, I have gotten that queasy feeling in my stomach that I get when I sense doom. There has been so much talk of the coming “blue wave” I fear complacency among voters who may be supporting Democrats. That was the same feeling I got in 2016, when I warned that the only poll that counted was the one in November. Too often, I have watched Democrats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    VOTE and while you’re at it VOTE BLUE!

  4. I expect the families of the fallen firefighters have lawyered up and are ready to pounce on these companies that kill their own. Shame on them for doing this!

    Who could blame them?

  5. Verizon and AT&T should be broken up into tiny little pieces. The internet should be a public utility, not a private sector issue. We already know what happens when we privatize a public good…healthcare!

    Now we’re doing the same thing with our schools and our water. We have literally contaminated our waterways while turning over bottling water to large corporations for profit maximizing.

    Then we are shocked by how this happened. It’s insanity.

    Our corrupt government officials on both sides of the aisle have allowed these public goods to be bastardized into profit making schemes because they receive serious kickbacks in the form of campaign donations. For those still believing a simple “Blue Wave” will reverse the damage capitalism has caused need only listen to the leaders of the DNC like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

    AT&T and Verizon also funnel our data to the NSA on various sites throughout the USA. Our emails, texts, and phone calls are all monitored. When folks refer to “staying off the grid”, this is what they are talking about. Hell, even our public utilities are manipulated by lawmakers.

    In Indiana, if a neighborhood wants to embrace solar energy for power, they are denied. You can’t get credit for producing more energy than you use.

    Think about that for a second. Even if you’re concerned about melting ice caps and the damage we’re doing to our planet, we are prohibited from taking action.

    Land of the free?

    It’s called Fascism and it’s a path toward authoritarianism. I’m not interested in being ruled over by a bunch of corrupt corporate/political men and women. Voting Blue does nothing to fixing Fascism…read a campaign financial statement.

    Eli Lilly controls Senator Donnelly. Do you think they won’t control whoever wins his seat? 😉

    You can’t regulate capitalists if you rely on their campaign donations. Period.

    You can’t write a critical article about capitalism or a company when you rely on them for advertisements. Period.

    Look at how much money these monopolies spread around to the politicos and you’ll understand the problem and realize the solution is electing folks who refuse corporate donations so they can begin working on changing the laws and policies which place profits over people.

    The DNC and GOP are corrupt institutions. Period.

  6. JoAnn,

    You weren’t digressing.

    Peggy,

    You’re right about that queasy feel. Unfortunately, this blog is not representative of the public at large.

    Nevertheless, be sure to VOTE BLUE!

  7. FIGHTING FASCISM and VOTING BLUE are separate issues. However, neither one can be successful without the other. The sooner that we admit to that truth, the better chance we’ll have of creating enough momentum to be successful in November.

  8. Peggy and Marv; I live with that same “queasy feeling” every day now but in me, it is total FEAR of the laziness of too many Americans willing to let someone else do it for them.

    A personal side note regarding the Internet; I appealed and won the huge increase in the assessment on my home which came with an almost 50% increase in property taxes. That communication process began using E-mails on May 3rd; I am still waiting for my refund check for over payment, I had paid the year in full so there would be no question I was trying to get out of paying my property taxes. I E-mailed the two assessor’s at the Warren Township Assessor’s Office I dealt with – by E-mail – but my messages were returned “undeliverable”. Got the same response E-mailing the Assessor; Ms. Moorhies, the Marion County Auditor who received my request for refund form didn’t even acknowledge receipt of my message. I found a site for Marion County Assessor’s Office with a direct E-mail option, no response. Contacted the Marion County Treasurer’s Office via their Feedback option – no response. Found Warren Township Assessor’s Office on Facebook so sent a comment; I received an immediate reply – from the ILLINOIS Warren Township Assessor’s Office to let me know they were not in Indiana. How is it that the state of Illinois can use the Internet to respond but no one so far in this city or county can respond in any manner? Has local government opted out of the Internet?

  9. California to the rescue- Not quite, but getting very close.

    Massive Victory for the Whole Internet’ as California Passes Nation’s Strongest Net Neutrality Bill.

    In a major victory for the open internet that could have ripple effects throughout the United States, the California Senate on Friday thwarted aggressive lobbying by the telecom industry and passed the strongest, most comprehensive net neutrality bill in the nation.

    Fight for the Future (FFTF) added, “y’all should be really proud of yourselves. Giant telcos like AT&T and Comcast spent enormous amounts of money lobbying to kill SB 822. They almost succeeded more than once, but we fought back. We drove phone calls, tweets, crowdfunded billboards, attended meetings.”

    Having cleared both houses of California’s legislature, SB 822 will now head to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for a signature.

    Brown, who has 30 days to sign the measure, is already facing pressure from the telecom industry to veto the bill, so open internet advocates are warning Californians to remain vigilant and keep up the pressure.

    If SB 822 is ultimately signed into law, it would restore the net neutrality protections repealed by the Republican-controlled FCC last December and implement even stronger rules by establishing “an outright ban on zero-rating—the practice of offering free data, potentially to the advantage of some companies over others—of specific apps.”
    https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/08/31/massive-victory-whole-internet-california-passes-nations-strongest-net-neutrality
    ==========================================================

    The big Telecoms want to impose their own version of À la carte, (just like our health care system) if you can afford a high speed connection, you can have it. Companies like Comcast have monopolies like utilities, but they do not have to subject themselves to government oversight Departments.

  10. I did not support the repeal of net neutrality but I think the facts are wrong here.

    Operators can and did put caps on data usage BEFORE net neutrality was repealed. A common technique was to throttle or slow transmission speeds when the cap was reached. For example, I have Hughes satellite service and have had this experience several times over the course of many years prior to the repeal.

    “It’s apples and oranges,” said Rudy Reyes, Verizon’s assistant general counsel in the western U.S. region. “(Net neutrality) addresses the issue of content discrimination, and we’ve made it clear we do not do that. This situation is not that. This situation is that a customer reached its prescribed limit of its contractual data plan and the data was reduced. ”

    Net neutrality is about fast and slow lane arrangements for content providers though contracts (money) with carriers.

  11. Blatant special interest appointed to high office by an administration who refuses to disclose financial interests in conflict with what is best for the greater good even when first responder’s lives are at risk in the urgency of an encroaching inferno of a canyon fire. How small does a man have to be among smaller men yet, before American citizens stand up to demand we are much better and greater than this!

    Thank you, Sheila

  12. I must say that I was completely incredulous when I read this. This one is way, way beyond being outrageous – it is criminal. To hinder emergency communications between firefighters that are fully engaged in fighting a wildfire and to try to justify that is just incredible. Not to minimize what these firefighters were doing while working on that wildfire, what if we had a national emergency that involves warning a large portion or all of the American public and these fools choose to limit the level of communication that’s available during it? Those who did this and those that allowed it to happen should be in their nearest or local Federal Penitentiary and nothing short of that.

    This, like virtually everything else that is coming out of this putrid Administration is utter nonsense and, once again, clearly indicates that it itself needs to be shut down at the earliest opportunity for the good of the country and its people. It’s already bad enough that we have to listen to the daily dribble that comes out of the White House and the fool that sits in the Oval Office. When that dribble endangers the public safety, however, which also includes the botched hurricane relief efforts all on an island known as Puerto Rico where more than 3000 people ultimately died because of their malfeasance, again, enough is enough.

    Meanwhile, we continue to just watch this crap play out every day and yet, as we have for the last 22 months, sit back as spectators when things are done or said that are blatantly un American and/or outright dangerous and essentially do nothing but wax eloquently in our condemnation of it. It’s ultimately going to take a lot more than that, a lot more to end this farce. Whether we are keen on what the Democrats are offering in the fall or not there needs to be a huge tsunami-like blue wave that will sweep these criminals and incompetents out of Washington. If that doesn’t materialize we will have to take to the streets and protest, and continue to protest this vile hijacking of our government by those that claim to be Republicans until they are gone.

  13. “Meanwhile, we continue to just watch this crap play out every day and yet, as we have for the last 22 months, sit back as spectators when things are done or said that are blatantly un American and/or outright dangerous and essentially do nothing but wax eloquently in our condemnation of it.”

    Tom; someone on Facebook posted the most eloquent comment befitting our situation, but posted it as a joke.

    “A porn star, a former Playboy Playmate and a man named Pecker walked into Mr. Mueller’s office…”

    And the entire world is watching along with us daily.

  14. As much as I support Net Neutrality, I also fault the Santa Clara County fire department for not reading the fine print in their plan description. Every Verizon ad for their low cost plans is accompanied by a statement about data throttling. Saving a few dollars was a really bad decision…

  15. The free flow of virtual information is as critical a resource now as electricity and water and sewage and natural gas are.

    It’s time to boot Joe McCarthy from haunting us and put socialism to work where we the people have critical needs like information flow and health care.

    It’s time to put common sense back to work too and get the oligarch funded entertainers off our backs as well.

    He’s too heavy and he ain’t my brother neither.

  16. Irvin; I’m not familiar with your term “Woodpecker” in reference to Trump but think I do get your meaning. Did you miss out on Mr. Pecker, editor of The Inquirer, coming forward about documents they have locked in their safe for years to protect more bad news about Trump from becoming public. Another of Trump’s years-long friendships which is ending badly for Trump; hopefully it will be lucky for us…and the U.S.

  17. Tom,

    “Whether we are keen on what the Democrats are offering in the fall or not there needs to be a huge tsunami-like blue wave that will sweep these criminals and incompetents out of Washington. If that doesn’t MATERALIZE we will have to take to the streets and protest, and continue to protest this vile hijacking of our government by those that claim to be Republicans until they are gone.”

    The only way that this can MATERIALIZE, without going to the streets, is to emphasize the TRUMP/PENCE/BANNON move toward FASCISM, outside of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party will not do it. Chuck Shumer, the leader of the DNC, will not take that route, since it will entail exposing the MAJOR ROLE played in the CREATION OF THE NAZI-LIKE RACIAL HATRED, over the past 50 YEARS, by the majority of the Southern Baptist Convention and its evangelical allies, all of which HOLD the life and death lifeline to the State of Israel.

    FASCISM raises the specter of CIVIL/RACIAL WARFARE. From my RECENT SAMPLING, approximately, half of the Republican base rejects that route along with the vast majority of Independents. Obviously, for most Democrats, I find ——it raises the stakes so high, that it will be impossible for them to sit quietly by as “Rome burns.”

  18. This is technology developed by the government at taxpayer expense being used by private corporations to extort money from citizens. Every effort by local government to create alternative access to high speed Internet has been thwarted by these same companies and their paid lackeys in Congress. Not only should we have Net Neutrality, but the Internet should be considered a necessary utility like water, sewer, gas, and electricity. It should not be left to corporations to throttle like the villainous big ranch owners in the old Westerns cutting off water from the streams that ran through their property in an attempt to get rid of the small farmers.

  19. Worth noting as well: Pai’s FCC has now admitted to blocking huge numbers of public comments protesting the repeal of net-neutrality.

  20. Steve,

    While the process was indeed corrupted, it’s more like this:

    ” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently announced his office has been conducting an investigation into who submitted millions of fraudulent comments (some using the identities of dead people) during the public comment period.” Motherboard December 12, 2017

  21. A great many people were waiting to see how long it would take for Trump’s Pecker to get into the act. Another case of predestination.

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