Verizon admitted it throttled mobile data rates firefighters received during a critical battle against wildfires, but poured water on reports linking the decision to a fight to restore net neutrality rules.

Reports this week revealed the US operator slowed the speeds available to the Santa Clara County fire department’s mobile command centre when it was being used to coordinate the fight against the largest wildfire in California’s history in Mendocino. BBC News stated the rate was slashed to 200kb/s after the fire department exceeded a 25GB monthly data limit.

Details of the throttling surfaced after the fire department backed a legal challenge by 22 US states to the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules.

In a declaration supporting the legal challenge, fire chief Anthony Bowden stated Verizon stuck to its guns even after being informed the decision was hindering the ability to provide emergency services, Ars Technica reported.

BBC News reported Bowden said the mobile command centre could use around 10GB of data a day.

While acknowledging failings, Verizon denied any connection with net neutrality or the legal challenge. In a statement it declared the incident “was a customer support mistake”, noting the fire department “purchased a government contract plan for a high-speed wireless data allotment at a set monthly cost.”

“Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data, but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle,” the operator said.

Operators commonly implement so-called fair use policies on unlimited plans, however Verizon admitted it would usually waive restrictions during emergencies.

“We made a mistake in how we communicated with our customer about the terms of its plan”, the operator stated, adding it is “reviewing the situation” with a view to avoid making the same errors in future.