Texas Bill Aims To Stop Companies From 'Throttling' Internet Service During Disasters

Feb 8, 2019

A bill in the Texas House of Representatives would make it a crime for telecommunications companies to impair mobile internet service in declared disaster areas. It comes after firefighters in California had their data plans “throttled” by Verizon during wildfires there.

When the Federal Communications Commission ended net neutrality, it essentially allowed internet providers to throttle, or block access, to certain internet services or websites. HB 1426 joins more than 100 other bills introduced in state legislatures around the country aimed at protecting internet access.

The FCC vote raised broader concerns over who should have control of internet access. But it also came as more and more first responders are using online platforms and apps.

“The fact that this is now bubbling up at the state level is a good sign," said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, a group that wants net neutrality reinstated. "But in reality, we need the FCC to actually do its job and ensure that these companies aren’t acting in ways that put the public in danger."

That's a sentiment shared by former FCC Commissioner Gigi Sohn, who recently told The Hill the FCC had “abdicated” its public safety role.

Verizon suggested first responders in California buy an upgraded internet plan after they complained about slow service during the wildfires. Santa Clara County sued the company as a result.

HB 1426 was filed by Edinburg Democratic State Rep. Bobby Guerra. He was not available for comment.