Verizon denies allegation that it’s throttling mobile data for Florence victims

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Verizon said Tuesday that it is not slowing down or degrading the wireless services of North Carolina residents who have been affected by Hurricane Florence, after a report surfaced accusing the company of “deprioritiz[ing]” mobile data plans.

A hurricane victim identifying him- or herself as a Verizon customer posted to reddit Monday saying that it has been days since it has been possible to check Facebook or email from a mobile device in a small town in eastern North Carolina.

“We traveled into a bigger town and called Verizon to check and see if there was a data outage,” the person wrote. “Only, I was told that my unlimited plan was deprioritized for being to low tier of a plan. But if I upgraded to a higher plan my service would be restored.”

The report was soon picked up and amplified by popular websites such as BoingBoing. The complaint carries echoes of another recent incident involving Verizon, in which the company slowed down the data speeds of first-responders battling a massive California wildfire. In that episode, Verizon admitted it made a customer-service error by asking the firefighters to upgrade to a different plan to restore their data speeds.

Asked by The Washington Post to respond to the complaint, Verizon said the case involving Hurricane Florence is different.

“On North Carolina, we are not throttling,” said Richard Young, a Verizon spokesman. “The most likely scenario is that the customer, who can’t connect to the internet, is in an area that has lost cell service.”

The company’s network is running “at 98% in the Florence-impacted areas,” Young added. The company said it had prepared for the storm by hardening its facilities, by sending extra fuel to power mobile generators hooked up to vulnerable cell sites and by bringing in mobile cell towers.

Last week, Verizon said it was offering free voice, data and text messaging to customers in the hurricane’s path. The company declined to provide specifics on how many customers have benefited from that announcement in recent days.

Still, other recent reports on social media appear consistent with Verizon’s account, with residents of Charlotte and Greenville, North Carolina, saying on Sunday there have been no interruptions in service.