Santa Clara fire department: Verizon's pants are on fire

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/08/23/flaming-bullshit.html

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It is my understanding that mobile data rates wouldn’t be a net neutrality issue because they made a big flat cut to the fire department’s mobile data. They weren’t throttling service to just “sendhelpimabouttodie.gov”, they cut all of their service. This is asshole behavior, but it doesn’t fall under net neutrality.

It does make the FCC look especially incompetent that they didn’t have regulations in place for first responder services. I guess nobody thought the wireless providers could be that greedy. But given their history it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Republicans like to complain about “over regulation”, but more often than not those regulations came about from cases like this, where the company broke the public trust and forced them to write the rules down on paper.

This also reflects very badly on Verizon’s customer support. Apparently the first level support staff have no power or training to escalate special cases like this. Obviously cutting off phone service to people who are literally going to die without it is super bad for PR, but the CS rep wasn’t going to deviate from the script even if God himself was on the other end of the line." That is an incredibly poor way to run a call center and means that there are thousands of other callers that are not being satisfied. Mobile phones aren’t like wired broadband, most people have options. If your customer support dicks them over they are more likely to switch carriers when their contract is up. Probably the only thing saving Verizon is that most of the competitors are also awful.

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The Trump administration did something… illegal?

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Perhaps someone should be jailed over this incident. I am sure there is some law on the books that makes “impeding the actions of firefighters” blatantly illegal.

(I have nothing against the poor representative who works in the call center who happened to answer the support call. I have everything against the policies that have created this perfect firestorm where the ability of a supervisor to “do the right thing” is not entirely driven by price gouging the government. If the person who created this policy was jailed, we may see some improvements in customer service for all customers.)

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If you are a California based Frontier customer (at least on the business FIOS side), review your bills. A little over a year ago they added a BS fee they don’t advertise when signing you up. They are saying it’s for “broadband infrastructure” and admit it has nothing to do with government regulation. They are trying to get us accustomed to it now, starting off a year ago at $1.99. Now it’s $3.99 as of July. If it goes up 100% every year like this, in five years --> $128 unadvertised “fee.”

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Is there a way to get the bullshit fee removed from your bill? Bullshit fees have been common practice for ages (landline telephones were rife with them) and generally the response to trying to get them removed is the CS rep stopping just short of laughing in your face before they tell you to go to hell.

If you’re talking about FiOS then there is little chance of success. Verizon isn’t likely feeling much pressure from competition and has no incentive to make you happy. What are you going to do, switch to Google Fiber? If that were even an inkling of an option you wouldn’t have gotten that fee in the first place.

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Thanks for my new Facebook profile background pic.

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I have been poking around the CPUC. That may be the best path. They have a telecom subcommittee. A campaign of political pressure and/or ditching them for other providers could work. Now, AT&T is trying to capitalize on this with an ad campaign claiming no fees:

HOWEVER, I understand ATT does charge data cap fees for home internet so, unless they have scratched those, this ad is also BS. On the cellular side, they have recently hiked fees on grandfathered unlimited plans.

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Exactly. This was a dreadful thing to do (to vastly understate it), but throttling traffic to/from all destinations =/= net neutrality.

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Removing bullshit fees from the bill only works for POTS landline service because it’s tarriffed. Cable, fiber, and cell service are not tarriffed, and since deregulation, the carriers can charge anything they like.

I still think Verizon is taking too much blame here.

Yes, a mistake was made–the throttle should have been lifted pronto while the purchase order was being handled.

However, just because they are engaged in emergency services doesn’t give them the right to get something they didn’t pay for. They’re obviously using more data than they paid for and they hit a hard throttle. (Now, why they are using that much data is probably something they should be looking into…)

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I’m just spitballing here, but maybe it has something to do with the western US being on fire? I can’t imagine anything these firefighters might be doing that might interfere with their full attention on counting every byte they use while coordinating fire rescue services.

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The thing is, how much data would actually be used in firefighting? You’re not sending video around or anything like that.

Oh really? I seem to recall reading, in the other thread about this, that drone footage might have been part of that data usage. I can think of many other reasons why, in a major public emergency like this, that a hell of a lot of data might need sending.

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Are you sure about that? AT&T (never dealt with Verizon on the commercial side) has the accounts called GEM - government, education,military (or is it medical? hard to remember). These accounts are setup according to local govt contract, federal law, and access agreements with states and municipality. These accounts can never have their access throttled or terminated even due to lack of payment. Why? Because servicing these public entities benefits the very community which is allowing the carrier to operate within their area. The only reason these companies can do business in your city, county, and state is because they are allowed to by the city, county, and state because those governments represent the people and providing a benefit to the people is what’s going to get you permission to make money off of them too.
It seems to me that cutting off or throttling service to your local government (police, fire, and other emergency services), a hospital, or a military installation should be prohibited if not by law then by contract. I can think of no reason such an agreement would not be in place before a carrier is allowed to string their first foot of line.

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Oh pssh, it’s only human lives at stake; what’s that compared to all the money Verizon is losing?

/s

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Not directly, but this is being brought up in the net neutrality lawsuit to demonstrate ISPs’ “attitude” toward quality of service and profits, and thus that they are not to be trusted with deregulation. When they innovate (one justification often given for deregulation), it is not to improving service, but to find a way to increase profits by manipulating how and how much they bill for basic service. If they are willing to throttle/degrade service in order to charge more, they will likely find a way to selectively throttle/degrade service in order to charge even more, unless net neutrality regulation is reinstated.

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Thanks. I was too preoccupied at that moment to go find it.
@Loren_Pechtel Still think it’s not an issue? (Downtime aside.)

There are other valid use cases in that thread, too.

Also; video for downtime is totally valid. Those folks are working 12-14 hour days for two weeks straight.

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