After Backlash, Verizon Will Give Rural Data Users A Bit More Time To Get The Hell Off Its Network
from the limited-unlimited dept
When last we checked in with Verizon Wireless, it was taking heat for kicking at least 8,500 wireless customers off of its network without much warning. The short version: Verizon created a program aimed at shoring up connectivity to rural areas, but after hyping the program and promising rural users access to unlimited data, Verizon realized the roaming costs were higher than initially projected, resulting in them quickly pulling the plug. In a notice to customers Verizon justifies the purging of these mostly-rural users by insisting they’re using a “substantial” amount of data:
“During a recent review of customer accounts, we discovered you are using a significant amount of data while roaming off the Verizon Wireless network. While we appreciate you choosing Verizon, after October 17, 2017, we will no longer offer service for the numbers listed above since your primary place of use is outside the Verizon service area.”
There’s several problems here. One, Verizon’s apparent inability to understand what “unlimited” means is a decade and numerous lawsuits old, yet clearly the company hasn’t learned much. Two, nowhere is the company telling these users what a “substantial” amount of data is, leaving them uncertain as to what they were supposed to do. And three, many of these impacted customers say their usage is absolutely nowhere near excessive, and in some instances amounted to little more than a few gigabytes per month:
“My family has three lines, and we had a 6GB plan,” Dedmon, who lives in Machiasport, told Ars. “We frequently either bumped it or had to purchase 1GB extra for $15.” Dedmon provided us with screenshots of her data usage that back this up.
The Dedmon family’s data use shows they were going through about 2GB or a little more per person each month. But the disconnection notice from Verizon told Dedmon that her family was “using a significant amount of data while roaming off the Verizon Wireless network.”
So Verizon apparently thought it was a good idea to sell limited “unlimited” plans, then kick many of these users off the network for bogus reasons. But problems began to emerge when Verizon simply refused to state how much usage was too much. Additional problems surfaced when law enforcement officials began to state that the sudden disconnections have impacted them too, reducing their ability to protect the public. Facing the added backlash from law enforcement, Verizon was forced to issue a statement saying they’d be giving many of these users an additional few months to get the hell out of dodge:
“We recently notified approximately 8,500 Verizon customers that we would no longer offer service to them because our costs when they roam on other wireless networks exceeds the amount they pay us every month. Since that notification, we have become aware of a very small number of affected customers who may be using their personal phones in their roles as first responders and another small group who may not have another option for wireless service.
After listening to these folks, we are committed to resolving these issues in the best interest of the customers and their communities. We?re committed to ensuring first responders in these areas keep their Verizon service.
If you?ve received a letter in the past two weeks, we?re giving you more time to switch providers – you now have until December 1, 2017. If there is no alternative provider in your area, you can switch to the S (2 GB), M (4 GB), 5 GB single line or L (8 GB) Verizon plan but you must do so by December 1.
While that’s nice of Verizon and all, nothing in Verizon’s statement explains why it’s falsely claiming that many of these users were consuming excessive data when they weren’t. The statement itself also goes well out of its way to downplay a problem that’s impacting around 20,000 lines belonging to around 8,500 users — so far. Again, if companies don’t want customers “abusing” unlimited data plans, there’s quite a simple solution: stop using the word unlimited. And again, Verizon’s been facing lawsuits and investigations for its inability to use the dictionary correctly for more than a decade.
But there’s another problem bubbling just under the surface of this mess. Verizon has spent years justifying its failure to upgrade its fixed-line networks (in many instances after getting numerous tax breaks or subsidies to do so) by claiming wireless broadband was going to be “good enough” for these users. And in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, Verizon simply refused to repair destroyed fixed-line infrastructure, insisting that wireless was “good enough.” Yet here we are, and it’s abundantly clear that good enough — simply isn’t.