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Verizon denies allegations that it’s degrading mobile data service for Hurricane Florence victims

A pedestrian uses a smartphone outside a Verizon Communications store in downtown Chicago in July 2016. (Bloomberg News) (Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg)

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 himself 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 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 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.” Young said he has reached out to the reddit user who posted the claim, but has not received a response. Without further information, said Young, Verizon cannot confirm the person is a customer.

The company’s network is running “at 98 percent 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, N.C., claiming on Sunday there have been no interruptions in service.