This Texas Bill Would Forbid Wireless Carriers From Throttling Service During Disasters
During the terrible wildfires that ravaged some California counties, firefighters working to save lives and property had a problem with the cellular data service they were receiving on the Verizon network. The problem was that Verizon throttled their plan making the internet access the teams needed slower than it should have been. Verizon's response on the issue of slow internet speeds for the county was that it needed to upgrade to a better plan; which is ultimately what happened, so the firefighters had the tools they needed to get their life-saving work done.
Legislators in Texas want to be sure this never happens in their state, and a bill has been introduced in the Texas House of Representatives that would make it illegal for telecommunications companies to throttle internet service in any location that was officially declared a disaster area. The bill in question is called HB 1426, and it is among over 100 other bills introduced by states around the country that aim to protect internet access in the wake of the FCC's repeal of net neutrality. There are also other suits against the FCC over the repeal of net neutrality rules that are still making their way through courts.
HB 1426 reads, "BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Subchapter H, Chapter 418, Government Code, is amended by adding Section 418.194 to read as follows: Sec. 418.194. MOBILE INTERNET SERVICE IN AREA SUBJECT TO DISASTER DECLARATION. (a) In this section, "mobile Internet service provider" means a person who provides mobile Internet service to a wireless communication device as defined by Section 545.425, Transportation Code.
(b) 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 under Section 418.014. SECTION 2. This Act takes effect September 1, 2019.
The bill was filed in Texas by Edinburg Democratic State Rep. Bobby Guerra. As for the incident in California that Texas is trying to prevent in the Lone Star State, Verizon ultimately says that the situation was a "customer support mistake" and that it already has a policy in place that removes restrictions in an emergency situation.