After being called out last week for hindering firefights combating California's largest wildfire, Verizon has released an official statement apologizing for the problem and offering a solution in the form of a new unlimited data plan. Under the new plan data usage will be truly unlimited, according to the carrier. That also means no caps on mobile solutions but the company also indicates it will include priority access. Verizon says that upgrading service to the new plan will be possible at 'no additional cost.' No details have been provided with regard to who is eligible for the new plan or which plans can be upgraded for free. However, the service provider isn't stopping there either. In fact, the statement released by Verizon revealed that all speed cap restrictions on first responder connected devices, both on the west coast and in Hawaii, have been removed due to the ongoing natural disasters.
Going forward, the same network prioritization and features will be applied for public safety customers and first responders whenever such a disaster strikes. The company hasn't currently provided any details about how much the new plan is going to cost new customers or who can sign up for it. So Verizon may allow any users to get in on the deal or intend for the service to be available for emergency personnel and first-responders only but there's no indication as to how much the monthly cost will be. As the Mendocino fire raged, Santa Clara County Fire Department IT workers were forced to contact the carrier and move to a data plan with a data cap of 75GB. That cost the county more than double what it had been paying for service but also spurred the latest offering. So this plan could still cost quite a lot for departments, especially if the free upgrade is only available to those on the more capacious plan – which costs around $95 per line.
For now, it isn't clear whether other mobile providers in the U.S. will follow suit and offer similar plans and service to emergency responders as well. Most carriers do seem to offer some concessions in the event of an emergency and several do have unlimited data plans. However, the data plans on offer are speed-capped, at least for the general public. The throttling has gained a substantial amount of traction and has even been referenced in arguments calling for the reinstatement of Title II net neutrality protections. So it isn't necessarily unlikely that statements will be released by those other providers in the aftermath of Verizon's announcement.