back to article Go big (with our bandwidth) or go home, Verizon: Texas mulls outlawing 911 throttling after Cali wildfire fiasco

A law proposed in Texas would make it illegal for mobile networks in the US state to throttle internet connectivity during a major emergency. The two-paragraph H.B. 1426 is a response to Verizon's controversial slowing down of California firefighters' wireless broadband last summer where, in the midst of the state's worst-ever …

  1. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Someone needs to use his famously huge coffee mug on his skull - as a rapid, brute force reprogramming tool... make him Pai!

  2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    The unintended consequence of laws.

    So

    "A mobile Internet service provider may not impair or degrade lawful mobile Internet service access in an area subject to a declared state of disaster,"

    Lawful mobile Internet service access would basically mean any user with a legal service contract. In emergency or disaster scenarios, mobile networks often go into a 'selective availability' mode that prioritises emergency services because in those scenarios, lots of people try to use their mobile phones.

    So the Bill, if enacted, would make that illegal, and mean congested/degraded service for all uses, including any emergency services. And all because a fireman didn't read their contract and tried getting a safety-of-life service on the cheap.

    1. Carpet Deal 'em

      Re: The unintended consequence of laws.

      I highly suspect the generality was intentional, but either way it certainly needs an "except as necessary to ensure the full functionality of emergency services communication" clause(or similar).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, how dare they interfere with Verizons attempt to make a honest buck! Free market and all.

    /s

    1. tmTM

      25GB though??

      Thats per-person right??

      I mean no sane person would buy that for the entire department??

      1. Aladdin Sane

        Re: 25GB though??

        They bought an unlimited plan, the 25GB would be the cap of the "fair usage" policy.

        1. M.V. Lipvig Bronze badge

          Re: 25GB though??

          Nope. Unlimited means unlimited, and throttling data is limiting it. If I have an unlimited plan that means full throttle 24x7x365 usage should be available to me. If Verizon doesn't want me to do that, then they shouldn't be selling unlimited plans. Selling a limited plan as unlimited is fraud.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: 25GB though??

            ALL plans are limited. You can't get around physics.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: 25GB though??

            The unlimited plans are generally unlimited with many providers. They just don't include unlimited usage at the highest speeds.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: 25GB though??

              1/200 speed once you go over the cap is essentially tossing an anchor over the side and no amount of weaselling is going to deflect from the fact that it IS an artificial limitation being imposed

  4. jake Silver badge

    Has anybody asked ...

    ... who at the fire department approved the purchase of the contract from Verizon without first reading the fine print AND UNDERSTANDING THE RAMIFICATIONS THEREOF?

    1) Somebody at the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District OKed the contract with Verizon. This is a fact. There is no getting away from it.

    2) The contract clearly states that users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle. This is also a fact.

    3) The data needs of OES 5262 were clearly much greater than that provided by the contract.

    4) The Chief CLEARLY sent his firefighters into harm's way with an inadequately tested system.

    Also, has anybody asked the fire department why they spent several days arguing with an email bot instead of simply dialing the emergency telephone number PROVIDED BY VERIZON SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS KIND OF SCENARIO?

    The Chief is lucky he didn't kill anybody with his lackadaisical approach to communications contracts.

    I realize that firefighters are gawds gift to us lowly humans, and that all $TELCOs are the tools of satan, so I'm probably going to get pilloried for this post ... but sometimes you've just got to call a spade a spade. The fire department in question fucked up, big time. The only remaining question is have they fixed it yet?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Has anybody asked ...

      That's a very one sided appraisal.

      It's not unreasonable to expect the telco to ask themselves, "Is what we're offering likely to suit the customer's needs?" . Telcos are the experts (or should be), they ought to know more about how much data a customer is likely to need than the customer.

      One might also expect them to ask this of themselves especially carefully for customers who are a public body providing an emergency service, with a high probability of bad publicity if things go wrong. Oh, look!

      On the flip side there's the point that the telco was probably competing for the contract, so had to aim for a competitive price. But so what? Be the good corporate citizen, give them a good deal and subsidise it out of the advertising budget. Or at least have a business process where by your automatic throttling can be disabled for certain accounts.

      In some ways supporting public services is often a nightmare - see the mess that is the UKs attempts to replace Tetra - but doing it properly is essential, if only to avoid the bad publicity if one gets it wrong. There may not be much money in it, but it's worth doing it (otherwise there might be an unpleasant law in the offing, compelling that you provide a service). Plus corporately there's a lot of kudos to be had from not cocking it up.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Has anybody asked ...

        Telcos are the experts (or should be), they ought to know more about how much data a customer is likely to need than the customer.

        Not always. This case got a little more complicated seeing as the service was bought via a US government framework contract. Which means the service options are strictly defined in those contracts and you generally can't offer anything bespoke.

        Then there's the assumption of skill levels for a sales person working in a high-volume call centre who can only offer customers approved service contracts. Thank you for calling Verizon, we can offer up to 25GB a month for $29.99 a month, or unlimited for only $49.99. It's reasonable to expect a sales script to say what would happen if that 25GB was exceeded.

        But that was another issue. Santa Clara fire department had exceeded their allocation before this event, and been throttled per contract. There may have been some confusion as to whether a temporary uncapping had become permanent, but the only solution a typical sales person would have would be to offer a service upgrade. And then there's FirstNet-

        https://firstnet.gov/news/more-50000-square-miles-lte-coverage-added-nationwide-support-att-and-firstnet-users

        ..FirstNet is being built in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority). This helps to ensure that the FirstNet communications platform and service offerings meet the short- and long-term needs of the public safety community...

        ..Band 14 is high-quality spectrum provided by the FirstNet Authority. Its signal covers larger geographic areas with less infrastructure to better support rural communities, and it can better penetrate buildings and walls in more urban areas as compared to higher-MHz spectrum. When not in use by FirstNet subscribers, AT&T customers can enjoy Band 14’s added coverage and capacity.

        Except in Texas, where it'd become illegal to prioritise FirstNet's connections. Or Texas could opt out of FirstNet, but then would have to satisfy the FCC that they knew what they were doing with alternatives. Then again, the FirstNet press release is a little interesting because Band 14 was specifically allocated to FirstNet, ie emergency services only, not general public 4G/LTE.

        1. M.V. Lipvig Bronze badge

          Re: Has anybody asked ...

          Nope. Verizon doesn't have business and government sales droids working out of high volume centers like consumer products. They have dedicated sales teams whose only mission in life is to take care of their specific customers before, during and after the sale. Therefore, their sales droid should have known of the requirements for the FD and had them on an appropriate plan. So far as cost goes, Verizon makes more per line on commercial lines than on consumer lines, and more on government contracts than on business contracts. So no, Verizon could have sold them an appropriate plan, including emergency full access on demand including a number to call to get full throttle for emergencies.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Has anybody asked ...

            "could have sold them an appropriate plan"

            Had the customer asked for one. Which they didn't. In fact, they insisted on the cheaper consumer-grade product in order to save money.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Has anybody asked ...

        Verizon should be thinking of the great PR and sales they would generate if they could show how they helped save the day. Their adverts would be so much better and realistic. The headline could be 'Verizon helped save you and your property be helping to put out this wildfire'.

        Alternatively, can they be sued for not assisting in preventing harm to others?

      3. rg287 Silver badge

        Re: Has anybody asked ...

        That's a very one sided appraisal.

        I mean, you're both right. It is not unreasonable to expect the Fire Department to purchase a plan commenusrate to their requirements. We would have less sympathy if they ordered a bowser of diesel for their trucks and then started whinging when their supplier didn't keep filling it up free-of-charge "because it's an emergency". The supplier isn't a charity and is at liberty to require a payment for their service.

        Anyone who has ever worked in web dev/design will know that non-profits, charities are the worst for "well we don't really have budget for x, but can you do it anyway, because we're very noble and important".

        However, given the parlous state of US Telecoms, it's also reasonable to ask how much choice the customer had in both supplier/competition and service plans. The FD is liable to have very spiky requirements (based on sporadic wildfires or major incidents) and if Verizon aren't offering a sensible "public services" plan that sits somewhere between the base usage and paying for their peak usage all the time (i.e. base+spikes) then that perhaps is a more useful thing to be legislating towards, or arrears-billing on usage rather than a capped plan, so you get a big bill for busy months and sod all in January.

        But in the absence of such a plan, it is criminally negligent of the FD to be under-subscribing on a critical service. It's bad enough that it happened once, but again two months later? Who is in charge of that and have they been fired yet? because that's basically the equivalent of not ordering fuel for the engines.

      4. jake Silver badge

        Re: Has anybody asked ...

        "That's a very one sided appraisal."

        Perhaps. But it's one from a guy who lived the Sonoma fires first hand, and fed and watered many first responders[0] over the course of a couple weeks. I counted vehicles from a couple dozen jurisdictions on my property over the course of the fire ...

        [0] Thanks, guys and gals. You won't ever be forgotten. Except apparently by your management, searching for a "deal" on emergency communications ...

    2. Pen-y-gors

      Re: Has anybody asked ...

      Generally quite a sensible view. I'd go a little further and suggest that perhaps Verizon could introduce a new plan, especially for the emergency services, which costs the same as the 25GB capped one, but without the cap. And publicise it heavily as "Verizon - working for your community" - and if all the Fire Service phones suddenly start using several hundred Gb a month as the firepeople watch pr0n during quiet moments then they start another advertising campaign "Verizon - bringing free self-pleasure to our brave fire-fighters"

      The proposed law to ban throttling also means that some dork in his storm cellar during the tornado can happily hog all the available bandwidth watching pr0n while he waits for it to be safe to come out. That is not a good thing.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Has anybody asked ...

        But politics..

        So the US had 9/11. Problems with emergency communications became apparent. So a lot of people affected in a small area, ie thousands of public and emergency workers responding to a huge incident. When that happens, you get-

        People calling for help. So you want to be able to prioritise E911 calls.

        People calling family & friends to say they're ok, or being called. Important to stop people worrying.

        Emergency & other services trying to deal with the incident, so critical or important calls.

        Press flocking to the scene to report.

        People taking Instagram pics, or live streaming/blogging the event.

        People blissfully unaware of the event trying to order pizza.

        So 9/11 was an outlier, and compounded by one of Verizon's main NY switching sites being hit by debris and destroyed. Other infrastructure was damaged on account of it being on rooftops. And later, some packed up due to the amount of dust ingress clogging filters/aircon. And unfortunately a main NY emergency response centre was located inside one of the WTC towers. But a huge surge in traffic, and a lot of damage to infrastructure.

        Networks respond in a few ways. Some can be automatic, ie a big spike in traffic and congestion can trigger call gapping, so callers get network busy tones.. Then try re-dialling, adding to congestion. Then any major, or just sensible telco has emergency plans. So when they're invoked, emergency traffic can be prioritised, ie switching mobile RANs to selective availability for emergency/priority traffic. But that means the telco needs to know which mobiles/SIMs to prioritise.

        But 9/11 lead to the US Federal government creating 'FirstNet', and assigning LTE band 14 and 10Mhz of bandwidth to critical traffic. AT&T got the contract to roll that out and manage it. States could opt out of FirstNet but only if they created equivalent services, and had those approved

        So basically the Santa Clara FD should have been using FirstNet, or an equivalent service, not a commodity Verizon contract. It got more complicated because there's also stuff like the 'GSA', or Government Services Agreement, which is a goverment specific price book and set of contracts qualified customers can order against, and which can't easily be varied by customer or provider. And I can pretty much guarantee a telesales person can't change contract/service terms on the fly.

        And because FirstNet was awarded to AT&T, Verizon can't offer that service, or AFAIK utilise band 14 capacity for it's customers, emergency services or not.

        And if this bill passes in Texas, unless there's a modification to exclude FirstNet, those emergency calls couldn't be prioritised either.

  5. Dippywood

    The FCC again

    FCC = F$%k Consumers Completely?

    Just seems pertinent

  6. Crisp

    This is why you can't leave emergency handling to private enterprise

    Or you get this kind of uber effect where you get surge pricing every time there's an emergency.

  7. I am David Jones

    On the face of it, this just looks like the emergency services didn’t read the T&Cs. Even most muppet consumers know to check the fair use policy for “unlimited” contracts. Or they didn’t anticipate such high usage. Either way, it’s hard to pin the blame on Verizon.

    I’m not defending the throttling of unlimited plans, but it is hardly new or exceptional.

  8. Jemma

    Texans..

    Prioritising people's safety over personal profit?

    Hark, I believe I hear the distinctive sound of a turbo-compound Duplex-Cyclone* projectile vomiting into life - and mercy me ah do believe it's bolted onto that flying pig.

    As someone else has said this actually degrades emergency use because it precludes completely the emergency services getting full control - by law - as I understand it now in both inbredistan and the UK in dire emergency the ES can prioritise their traffic. But it possibly worse than that, because someone with a suitable level in bastardry might be able in this situation to stop any backhaul upgrades except those requirements regarding more customers, on the simple basis - "the law says all we have to do is serve our customers - we don't have to have gear for priority switching - we don't need any really high spec stuff cos normal customers..." and if I've read things right the view of Verizon as regards investment is "I seem to remember someone mentioned the term once when we were both interns, they found him naked and very dead in a canyon about 2 weeks later, and no one bought it up after that - I always wondered about that scrap of paper with Simon written in blood on it... have you seen the new iPhone?"

    *Apt since its prehistoric, a technical/evolutionary dead end, and makes the most ridiculous noises on a cold start. Like most Texans really.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think the bill is just for political brownie points.

    If the services the bill wanted to cover was only of emergency/enterprise/high availability SLA, the bill would make sense, but then it would be covered by contract law anyway? Which means the bill isn't required and the firefighter service could have taken Verizon to court.

    In an emergency situation, the prioritsation of emergency services over general SLA is what should be enshrined in law. Verizon (and all service providers) must have lawful ways of prioritizing service availability to emergency users as their engineering and technical staff deem fit.

    The fire department is at fault here for using a generic SLA service for an emergency situation where they should have secured a service with a high availability SLA.

    The service they took and used is meant for tweets and instagram photos.

    Which means this is a "No slow selfes in a disaster" law.

    The other angle to this is that the general internet is being seen as a high availability emergency service. Then this law is going to do F'all for that vision.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Could it be

      That verizon don't offer an emergence specific plan... Or that to get the sale, the verizon salesbod offered them a standard business plan rather than emergency service plan since it worked out cheaper and thus more likely to earn them a commission without spelling or what the implications were. It could also be that they judged the plan adequate based off historical data not realising newer devices on 4g could gobble data so quickly and this wasn't explained well enough.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Emergencies Everywhere

      In an emergency situation, the prioritsation of emergency services over general SLA is what should be enshrined in law.

      Here in the UK, it is. So the Airwave system is coming to the end of it's life (ok, contract) and being replaced by the ESN-

      https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-emergency-services-mobile-communications-programme/emergency-services-network

      Customers will benefit from data prioritisation, which means the device will perform consistently when using data, even in times of high network traffic. It will also be possible to specify a higher level of prioritisation if needed for any critical applications.

      EE's building it, and it's essentially a 4G service with the ESN users having priority. Arguably a lot easier to do this in the UK on account of us being smaller, and having fewer emergency service users than the US, ie our blue light services + invited guests.

      The other angle to this is that the general internet is being seen as a high availability emergency service. Then this law is going to do F'all for that vision.

      Indeed, but I've been arguing that point with customers since around 1993. The Internet is fundamentally best efforts. But there's another important angle. SCFD was trying to access data held on some form of Google account. In any safety-of-life scenario, you have to look at the system end-end. So it would be no use if Verizon had prioritised the data, but links to Google were congested and the chosen Cloud provider doesn't offer a prioritsed service. I rather suspect the application they were trying to access was also running in a commodity/basic account.

    3. M.V. Lipvig Bronze badge

      "In an emergency situation, the prioritsation of emergency services over general SLA is what should be enshrined in law."

      It is. By law, if I see a trouble ticket with the correct coding come into queue I have to put what I am doing aside and start working the emergency services circuit immediately even if it means putting the circuit I am working on aside, even if I have field technicians on the phone with me. These tickets are color coded in the ticket queue to make them easy to find.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only in America?

    "What really annoyed Bowden was that when his department contacted Verizon to lift the limits, they were told they needed to upgrade their plan before data was turned back on, which they eventually did by paying double the previous cost."

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Only in America?

      If you eyeball what happened, their "contact" was an email bot. They didn't use the toll-free telephone number provided SPECIFICALLY for this kind of thing until several days AFTER the bandwidth throttling took place. Humans at Verizon can't fix what humans don't know ... and the computers aren't programmed for one-off situations.

  11. Loatesy

    "The contract clearly states that users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle. This is also a fact."

    Don't get it. Unlimited data means exactly that, surely? How can you then have an 'allotment'? What am I missing?

    1. jake Silver badge

      What you are missing

      There is no such thing as "unlimited" in the sense you are talking about. (Can you download the entire Internet several dozens of times before Lunch, every single day, on your plan? Why not?)

      What "unlimited" means in this context is "as much as you can manage, given the bandwidth constraints" ... and the contract specifically states that after a certain number of bytes, the bandwidth will be throttled. It also states that under certain conditions, unfavorable reception might throttle bandwidth. Have you not read the contract you have with your carrier?

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: What you are missing

        There are other potential gotchas dating back to the old days of dial-up networks, and customers complaining about huge modem/ISDN call charges. Come mobile data, much the same happened. Users unaware of how much data their dumb phones were using for data acquisition. So rapidly clocking up more than 25GB of adverts from websites, which could lead to massive overage charges.

        Various regulators imposed requirements to notify customers if they were reaching their quotas, so operators implemented SMS messages to let customers know they needed to top up or move to a different contract.

        Naturally if those messages are sent to a SIM stuck inside a terminal that doesn't care about SMS, then the contract holder is blissfully unaware. In this case, I think the SIM was inside a command truck router, and the router or application wasn't configured to extract the SMS message and alert the operators. Then you get the scenario where the alert may go to someone who isn't in a position to deal with it, ie authorised to make payments or charge the contract.. Because that's handled by finance/procurement, and their phones don't work due to congestion.

        Designing safety-critical solutions needs a LOT of thought and 'what-if?' scenarios. Which includes at Verizon's end. So a first-line call centre person almost certainly wouldn't have the ability to make any non-standard changes. So that would need to be escalated to someone that can.. And do you know where your superusers are? They're an essential part of any emergency plan, ie making sure the people who can make changes on the fly & in response to a disaster event are contactable and available to respond... Which from an engineering/operations POV, often means more than just having a mobile number listed in a DR plan.

      2. Neoc

        Re: What you are missing

        erm, @jake... you specifically state "...given the bandwidth constraints". A constraint is, by definition, a limit placed upon your service by the ISP: "we are limiting you to X bytes at the full speed". This, then, makes the plan no longer "unlimited". Except in America, of course, where the Lobbyists/Lawyers with the biggest pockets get to redefine what words mean regardless of the actual dictionary definition.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: What you are missing

          Neoc, how many times in a single day can you download the entire contents of The Internet on your so-called "unlimited" plan? What's that? Not even once? Maybe your so-called "unlimited" plan is limited after all? Perhaps you can explain this anomaly to all of us. Inquiring minds and all that.

          1. Neoc

            Re: What you are missing

            @Jake, you really like using incorrect assumptions in your answers, don't you? Such as, for example, assuming that I (a) live in the USA and (b) have an "unlimited" plan. I fit neither of these points:

            (a) I am in Australia (where the ACCC actually has power, unlike the FCC/FTC in the USA which seem to be at the mercy of special interest groups which have hobbled them to the point of uselessness)

            (b) my plan is honest and does not use the word "unlimited" - it quite clearly states the amount of data I can download at top speeds, what my *expected* speed is supposed to be instead of *theoretical* max speed (again, thanks to the ACCC getting tired of ISPs not delivering) and how I am to be throttled. Mind you, with my ISP having essentially quadrupled my download limits in the last few years (WTF am I going to do with 2TB/month)...

            My problem is with the fact that ISPs in the USAs (I can't speak for other locales) seem to be quite happy to use the word "unlimited" (which implies that *they* do not apply limits) and then apply limits in the small-print. Bottom line: if an ISP applies arbitrary limits (i.e. ISP does not like you downloading large amounts and so throttles after an arbitrary amount), the ISP should not be allowed to use the word "unlimited" since they are, in fact, imposing limits. I do not understand why you do not grok this. Stop using the word "unlimited" and start advertising the actual limits.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: What you are missing

              Neoc, I have an "unlimited" plan. I can make as many phone calls as I like, send all the texts I care to and watch cat videos on YouTube non-stop. After 22gb, the cat videos are going to be buffering a lot and waiting for data. I'll still get them, they'll just take longer. I have unlimited voice calls but only inside the country. Is that now limited?

              The use of the work "unlimited" is a bit deceptive for the bulk of the population that left school never having learned how to read, but it doesn't read "Unlimited High Speed Data". In fact, the short fine print on the adverts do say how speeds will fall after using the 22gb or if the network is congested.

              The huge question is how is all of this data being used. Is it a herd of firefighters looking for some light entertainment during breaks or is it urgent communications? Is recreational use impacting more important comms? Why don't the firefighters have their own phones, with their own plans for non-firefighting use? Why is the fire department using a third party supplier instead of deploying their own secure comm system for a major fire? My Ham group can have a radio net around an area in a couple of hours with worldwide reach. A couple of times a year we practice just that. Hell, we even trade messages with ISS.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: What you are missing

                "After 22gb, the cat videos are going to be buffering a lot and waiting for data."

                Because you have had a restriction (limit) applied

                What part of "limiting" don't you get? It doesn't always mean "cutting off"

                One example being speed limiters fitted to trucks....

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: What you are missing

              For somebody without a dog in this race, you sure are emotional about it, Neoc. Why? What difference does it make to your life?

              Please, try to understand that the rules and regulations regarding the wording of advertising vary widely from country to country. Lingo that is legal in your jurisdiction might be illegal in mine. And vice-versa. Shirley it would be easier to simply live with that fact instead of spending all this energy on something that you do not today, and will not ever, have any control over?

              The contract that Verizon provided spells out EXACTLY what the bandwidth limitations are for the contract that the fire department chose to invest in. Including explaining what "unlimited" means in that context, which any of our teenagers already knows. And this definition is legal, according to our laws. The fact is that the fire department decided that reading and understanding the contract wasn't important. Turns out they were wrong. Very, very wrong. And here we are.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: What you are missing

                "Lingo that is legal in your jurisdiction might be illegal in mine."

                Twisting "restricted" into "unlimited" is a fairly spectacular redefinition and comes under the category of "The best lawmaking money can buy" - it's the kind of thing which underscores exactly how corrupt the legal system has become in the jurisdiction in question - "3rd world shitholes" redux

                As for WHY Verizon do it, they do it for one simple reason: They're essentially a monopoly and can get away with it

      3. Santa from Exeter

        Re: What you are missing

        "(Can you download the entire Internet several dozens of times before Lunch, every single day, on your plan? Why not?)" - Speed, I only have 70G download speed!

        " Have you not read the contract you have with your carrier?" - Yes, and it says absolutely nothing about throttling me when I reach any seemingly arbitrarily defined limit.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: What you are missing

          "Speed, I only have 70G download speed!"

          So your "unlimited connection" is, in fact, limited.

          "Yes, and it says absolutely nothing about throttling me when I reach any seemingly arbitrarily defined limit"

          That's your contract. There are many more on this muddy rock.

  12. Rich 2

    Surprised?

    The world is quite happy to think money is FAR more important than impending world ecological collapse, so why is anyone surprised by this?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nice idea, baaad implementation

    Phone networks are built on the unavoidable fact that they can't service the entire user population simultaneously, and that's OK, because everyone isn't on the phone at the same time. Hence decades of work into circuit- and packet-switching, timeslicing, and queuing theory.

    This all works pretty well except when an external event reduces capacity or increases demand - natural and man-made disasters being situations where both tend to happen.

    Fortunately, phone companies have things in place that give safety-critical personnel a way to solve this: WPS for public-safety people like firefighters and GETS for the government (I'm talking about the US: the UK is similar). If you dial the special number/access code, or are using an authorized handset, you get through, no fuss, no guaranteed bitrate, all cool.

    The firefighters' problem was that they were using commercial grade service not first-responder-grade service. Naughty.

    Verizon's problem was that they failed to recognize the users' complaint as coming from a public-safety agency and treating them as Joe Public.

    Neither of these problems are solved by the proposed law. A better solution would have been to mandate that all public-safety personnel are on the correct service grade, and regulate (e.g. via reverse auction) the pricing for such contracts.

  14. Pirate Dave Silver badge
    Pirate

    Odd

    It seems odd that the Fire Dept (or the County commission) in Cali didn't have a dedicated account rep that they could call up and get things worked out in about 5 minutes. I used to deal with Verizon at a previous University job, and I had the number to my account rep for problems like this. I didn't have to dial *611 and wait for the first available CS rep. It would seem reasonable that a local government group would get even better service from their rep than some nerd at a small University.

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