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Texas bill would make it illegal to throttle data in disaster areas

Engadget 2019-02-09 15:28:00

The revelation that Verizon (Engadget's parent company) throttled California firefighters' data is prompting new legislation... in Texas. State Representative Bobby Guerra has submitted a bill that would make it illegal for wireless carriers to "impair or degrade" mobile data in declared disaster areas. In other words, a provider couldn't throttle any service in crisis-struck regions, for emergency crews or otherwise. It wouldn't preclude throttling in normal circumstances.

At least one internet advocacy group backs the move. Fight for the Future's Evan Greer told NPR affiliate KUT that it was a "good sign" a measure like this appeared at a state level, but warned that the FCC under Ajit Pai needed to "actually do its job" and prevent carriers from endangering the public. Verizon eventually removed throttling for wildfire responders after a backlash to its approach, but there have been concerns that the FCC's net neutrality repeal prevents the regulator from taking similar action on its own.

Whether or not the Texas bill goes further isn't certain. Guerra is a Democrat in a state that currently skews Republican and tends to favor light regulation. However, the state is no stranger to hurricanes and other natural disasters, and a bill might get support if it ensures that emergency teams can do their jobs without worrying about slow data.