For anyone who wondered whether Verizon’s “unlimited” data plans were akin to a magical unicorn that doesn’t exist, those suspicions have been confirmed for a thousands of customers who won’t be allowed to renew their contracts upon expiration. In retrospect, this shouldn’t be too surprising after Verizon was found to be throttling data (for Netflix and YouTube usage) on unlimited wireless plans earlier this summer. Of course, it’s understandable that Verizon would worry about their bottom line and seek to limit services that threaten profitability, but why offer “unlimited” plans that lead to PR messes?
In this case, 8,500 rural customers in rural areas from 13 states — Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin — received notices in the mail informing them that Verizon would no longer serve them. The issue, as BDG summarizes, has to do with “excessive data roaming” because Verizon’s network doesn’t extend that far into the sticks, as the provider told ARS Technica while arguing that these customers used “substantial” data:
“These customers live outside of areas where Verizon operates our own network. Many of the affected consumer lines use a substantial amount of data while roaming on other providers’ networks and the roaming costs generated by these lines exceed what these consumers pay us each month.”
According to BDG’s analysis, it sounds like Verizon simply bit off more than they could chew:
The problem comes down to Verizon’s LTEiRA program, under which 21 small regional carriers partnered with Verizon to get coverage to rural areas. Under the terms of the program, Verizon provides technology and spectrum rights to tiny regional carriers. In return, Verizon customers can use those regional networks for free.
Unfortunately for the customers in these areas, the roaming charges are now too much for Verizon to absorb because it “miscalculated,” as BDG puts it. However, Verizon was the only provider available for some of these folks, who don’t have any other options from which to choose. And as one upset customer told ARS Technica, their so-called “substantial” use — the apparent reason for the booting — amounted to 50 GB per month stretched over four family members. That’s pretty typical (or at least … not abnormal) use in the smartphone age, with videos and graphics flying everywhere.
Still, Verizon seems keen to fully cut ties with all of the affected customers, for their letters “do not provide any options” to remain customers, not even if they cut back to a different plan. What a headache.