The "piece of trash" corporate citizen awards

I hereby nominate Verizon for the 2018 Piece of Trash corporation of the year. They throttled the internet connection of the Santa Clara County Fire Dept. during an active fire.

This is a stunning example of “we’ll do something just because we can, and morality be dammed” type of thinking that some people seem to delight in. And, of course, now that they’ve been caught, the backpedaling has begun.

Another top contender has to be MGM Resorts International for attempting to sue the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival.

You’ve heard of the banality of evil, and I suspect this is another example. There was probably some ill-thought-out policy which some mid-level functionary stuck to in spite of obvious reasons not to, until the shit hit the fan publicly. So it is about greed, but the greed represented by a company being unwilling to invest anything in developing common sense instead of blind obedience in its staff.

This is all my assumption, of course, based on the years I spent in the corporate world. It might be something completely different.

Bad behavior by Verizon, but the article implies that this is a net neutrality issue - it’s not. Verizon were not selectively throttling certain content.

It appears that Verizon sold a customer a data package with the misleading description “unlimited”, without clearly disclosing that the package involved severe throttling if they exceeded some monthly limit. Clearly not a suitable package for a fire department. And then Verizon didn’t do the right thing promptly in an emergency when the data cap became apparent.

But net neutrality is not about all customers getting the same speeds and data caps. We can choose to pay for whatever suits. Net neutrality is about neutrality toward content - that we can download anything we like at the speed we have paid for.

Before you emotionally bring this up, you need to read a bit more about the legal issues behind this.

This is correct.

An update to that story says “The Santa Clara fire department has responded to Verizon’s claim that the throttling was just a customer service error and “has nothing to do with net neutrality.” To the contrary, “Verizon’s throttling has everything to do with net neutrality,” a county official said”

That county official is wrong.

I suppose the only tangential way that the Verizon story could be construed as relevant to net neutrality is as evidence of a general principle that an ISP is unscrupulous and can’t be trusted to behave well. But I think that’s a poor approach to free market capitalism. In general, we should set up regulations on the basis that nothing really depends on market participants being “good” in some way, but that the regulatory environment is sufficient to enforce a desirable result for society provided market participants simply follow the law while pursuing profit.

Frankly, I think someone managing the Santa Clara County network screwed up by choosing such a package. “Yada, yada unlimited. Great.” Dude, when dealing with life and death stuff, you should maybe read the fine print.

I agree. That’s why it was strange to find people thinking that the end of net neutrality would be good for consumers, when the ISPs were all for it. The ISPs weren’t for it to HELP their customers. They were for it to CHARGE their customers more money. Seemed plain as day to me.

This. Verizon has like three or four different levels of “unlimited” data now. I can imagine someone in purchasing thinking “Why should I pay more for unlimited when I can get unlimited for half of that?”

If I were a Verizon bigwig, and I heard that the firefighters needed more data bandwidth, rather than hold out for a $2 upgrade, I’d give them a free data account just for the goodwill it would generate. Think of the positive publicity!

Since they didn’t do that, I’d say a “piece of trash” award is entirely appropriate.

No, the Verizon throttling first responders thing is a net neutrality issue. This article from a year ago explains -

When the ISPs were arguing that net neutrality - hereafter NN - is harmful, they claimed that the NN rules established by the FCC actually made it more likely that emergency calls would be slowed down because, they claimed, that the emergency calls would be in the same pool as everyone else. That article quotes an AT&T VP as saying that the repeal of NN would allow for emergency calls to have priority, unlike in the days of NN.

This was a straight up lie on the part of the ISPs. You can read the rules regarding emergency calls in the original documents that established NN. Here’s the link - the emergency calls section starts on page 131.

Italics in the original.

So because the ISPs lied in claiming that the NN rules prevented them from establishing priority emergency services, and also lied in claiming that they would be establishing priority services once NN is gone, Verizon’s recent throttling of the emergency responders is now an issue in the lawsuit brought by a bunch of Attorneys General asking that NN be restored.

It remains to be seen how that suit will fare - it’s at the appeal stage - but ISP throttling of emergency services has always been a concern in the NN debate.

Or maybe Verizon and other companies should stop using deceptive marketing practices.

“Unlimited” shouldn’t be subject to four levels of definition, and I think we already know how the “fine print” and terms of service are purposely made long and complicated to ensure people won’t read them. Sorry, but caveat emptor has its limits.

In my view, these tactics are commonplace in the modern era only because they can get away with it. If we allowed the regulating agencies to use their teeth instead of caving in to business pressure, this nonsense might happen less.

I don’t see anything deceptive here unless maybe you expected the sales rep to read the entire contract aloud to whoever signed up for it. If anything I would expect the salesperson to push the higher dollar package while pointing out the bandwidth would be throttled once they exceeded the limit.

While Verizon doesn’t have anyone even related to Mother Theresa on their board, they’re not the ones at fault here. Aside from not removing the bandwidth restriction once they were advised it was for emergency services and I still want to hear that conversation before I make a final decision on that.

Are you under the impression that governments are made of money?

I don’t know about you, but I expect government employees to try to avoid spending more of the taxpayers’ money than is actually necessary. In a situation like this, confronted with confusing or misleading marketing claims, I think that the original decision was a reasonable one.

Sorry, but you are incorrect. If the ISP said “Yes, there was a slow-down of your Internet service because we are not able to prioritize emergency traffic due to NN rules”, then you would be correct.

The ISP throttled their connection based on usage, not on content. It had nothing to do with any other content or user of the ISP at that time. Something that could be done with NN, and something that could be done without NN. It is NOT a NN issue.

Certainly not. I’ve been working for county government for 26 years. My Wife nearly 30. Some things are worth looking into though. And I stand by my opinion that whomever picked that plan dropped the ball (or didn’t fight enough for a better plan, not enough research etc.)

Certainly not. I expect all employees to make the best decisions they can regarding spending employer’s money. I also expect them to do their due diligence and research what they’re proposing to spend money on.

“Give me the cheapest [whatever] I can get.” is not due diligence.

This piece explains a bit better how the NN changes did affect this particular instance.
For one thing:


So yeah, Verizon did say “Yes, there was a slow-down of your Internet service because we are not able to prioritize emergency traffic due to NN rules” kinda. They said, “because of the repeal of NN rules we can throttle you anytime you go over your plan (that we sold you without telling you the details) and we don’t have to give a shit if it’s because of excessive traffic or if you’re emergency services. Sucks to be you. Pay us more money.”

While I agree with this, I also agree with Verizon’s own admission that under the circumstances the emergency should have been prioritized regardless of the plan in place. Both sides dropped the ball.