Wireless

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
competition, fcc, unlimited, verizon wireless

Companies:
verizon



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.


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  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 4:19am

    I don't see what unlimited data has to do with roaming. It's a separate issue. Apply the roaming charges, then.

    Funny thing is, of all the places that providers refuse to compete, they won't simply carry another provider's traffic (which should be akin to bulk mvno sales) without ridiculous charges. All of it makes perfect sense from the prevailing modern business perspective, but it doesn't mesh with their claims to consumers. This is, again, perfectly understandable in terms of business, but puts an obvious lie to everything they say, as usual.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 4:21am

    I don't see any problems with limiting the amount of data a person ca

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 4:32am

    "look how generous we are, we are screwing you but warning in advance now so you can get some lube!" - Verizon

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 4:42am

      Re:

      *Lube may or may not be available in your area and/or on your plan. In areas that lube is available, you must submit a request via phone, fax, email and personal visitations to our regional offices(with visits requiring a request submitted six months ahead of time by phone, fax, email and personal visitation) for approval of your request to add lube to your plan.

      Lube is not guaranteed to be available at all times, and availability can be revoked at any time and for any reason we deem reasonable/profitable. Cancellation of your lube add-on will be processed as quickly as we can, generally taking between three and twenty-seven months, during which you may or may not be charged as though it was still active on your plan.

      Early cancellation of the lube add-on to your plan will incur a 'Your house'-fee, which will be applied against your account, and may or may not involve additional processing and fee-handling fees.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 4:41am

    Small but Not TOO Small

    8,500 users sounds like the basis for a class action suit to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 7:31am

      Re: Small but Not TOO Small

      Too bad the TOS forbid class action suits and require individual arbitration with an arbitration panel of their choice. Put in place after canceling their service, but retroactive to the date they signed the agreement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 8:27am

        Re: Re: Small but Not TOO Small

        Displayed in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard'

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 4:47am

    and not a lot of difference between 'Unlimited' and the plans now on offer, the best being 8gb a month! why the hell customers let the companies get away with this shit time after time i dont understand!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 4:54am

      Re:

      'If there is no alternative provider in your area...'

      Verizon inadvertently answered that one in their letter: Because for a good many people they either get their service from Verizon or they don't get service at all, with the same general situation applying to other companies in the field.

      They know they can treat their 'customers' like crap because their customers have to take it; they have no other viable option.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 7:33am

        Re: Re:

        Old Lily Tomlin ad: We're AT&T. We don't care - we don't have to.

        It's time to start breaking up these megacorps.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 5:13pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          It's time to start breaking up these megacorps.

          We already tried that back in 1982.

          AT&T was split up into 7 RBOCs...


          Ameritech, Bell Atlantic, BellSouth, NYNEX, Pacific Telesis, Southwestern Bell (SBC), US West, Cincinnati Bell, Southern New England Telephone (SNET) which have since recombined...


          AT&T (Ameritech, BellSouth, Pacific Telesis, SNET), Verizon (Bell Atlantic, NYNEX, GTE, MCI), Cincinnati Bell, CenturyLink (US West, Quest).


          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_Bell_Operating_Company

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 10:32am

      Re:

      "customers let the companies get away with this "

      Really, I don't understand why the (little people with no clout and no cash) customers do not stand up to those companies (big conglomerates with loads of cash to give to lawyers), it really is amazing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 12:20pm

        Re: Re:

        It's EASY to understand - in most places, you put up with their shenanigans, or you do without. Now, try doing without a phone or internet. Unless you're part of the cast of Alaskan Bush People, you're kinda stuck.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 1:16pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          yea, we know... just go ahead and give the bad guys your money or you get nothing at all.

          They are not stuck, they just keep getting programmed that they should just take what they can get.

          If people actually stop buying service at all, even a monopoly has to take notice. The problem is getting people to suffer without for a bit to make a convincing effort.

          If you won't change and make an effort, why should they?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 2:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Now, try doing without a phone or internet.

            You seem to have missed this part in your rush to say the public had it coming. By all means, go without, entirely, for a month or two and come back and tell us how well it worked.

            I mean, surely someone so eager to blame the public for not being willing to suck it up and do without in order to send the companies in question a message will be willing to do what they claim others are too lazy to do, right?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 5:10am

    Seems like this has been part of Verizon's plans all along.

    1) Get rid if wired connections by pushing everyone to wireless.

    2) Push wireless customers to metered plans

    3) Sell as much info about customers as you can, including gps location data

    4) Profit

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 5:11am

    "nothing in Verizon's statement explains why it's falsely claiming that many of these users were consuming excessive data when they weren't."

    No need to be polite when dealing with these perpetual ingrates. Call a spade a spade. Properly translated, Verizon has yet to provide a genuine reason why it continues to lie through it's fucking teeth to both customers and regulators in perpetuity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 5:14am

      Re:

      The reason is obvious. It is profitable. Paying for state and local laws that enable them to be a monopoly has made them proof against the little people. We are just a captured market to them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 11:38am

        Re: Re:

        the folks here at TD do not understand this.

        It may be obvious to you and me, but they think we are eating paint chips when we tell them these things.

        You can't stop a self destructive human, they can only stop themselves.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 5:33am

    Obviously this is the consumers' fault. If they don't like Verizon's policies then why are the policies there? Clearly they could have done something about it. I would tell you my million solutions, but first I have to call you idiots and sheeple until infinity. If you like regulations, you're an idiot. If you hate regulations, you're an idiot too!

    Now excuse me. I need to go eat my paint chips...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 27 Sep 2017 @ 5:46am

    It's Verizon this and Verizon that.
    Everyone keeps talking like Verizon is a single uncountable person.
    Just round up the Board and executive officers and send em to the Alaska State Housing authority breaking big rocks into small rocks.

    Too bad we can't export the housing to Siberia

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 27 Sep 2017 @ 6:49am

    Wireless service and its limits _are_ good enough.

    Or else.

    I mean, Verizon broadband is like these "investment schemes" earning you a tenfold increase of your dollars in an unbelievably short time span and you are allowed to withdraw 1% of it as long as you keep investing more at the same time.

    So many dollars. As long as you don't want to actually get hold of them.

    Just like Verizon broadband.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 7:52am

    Where's the FTC?

    Considering how Verizon's latest batch of ads all proclaim how great their service is in rural areas where no one else has coverage, and now they're doing away with service in those exact areas, isn't it now fraudulent advertising?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 27 Sep 2017 @ 8:13am

      Re: Where's the FTC?

      No. Fraudulent advertising is if they are selling you something worse than advertised. Not if they refuse selling you anything at all even though they claimed to do so when cashing in on subsidies. That's not fraudulent advertising but disingenuous P.R.

      One is stealing from their customers, the other from the tax payers.

      You are doing the respectively responsible thieves in the company hierarchy an injustice when you attribute their success to other crooks.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dingledore the Mildly Uncomfortable When Seated, 27 Sep 2017 @ 8:08am

    ...and another small group who may not have another option for wireless service."

    ...we’re giving you more time to switch providers"

    Anyone selling pigeons?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 8:25am

    Is it size or size?

    Let's see, Verizon is telling its customers not that they are using too much data, but that they are using too much off network data. Doesn't that mean that Verizon's footprint is too small and that they are sanctioning customers for their own failure?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 12:31pm

    Too Much Data

    I can't recall where, but VZW confirmed somewhere that the reason users are being kicked off for low usage is simply because they're cutting ties with people where it costs VZW more in roaming charges than they're making from the customers.

    So, if you use 1gb of data and pay in $40/month but its costing VZW $41/month in roaming, that's who they're cutting. Didn't matter how much data you were using, it mattered how much data you were using while roaming. If you are in a cheaper roaming area, you might be fine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 12:46pm

      Re: Too Much Data

      What would be nice to know is the amounts they pay out for roaming charges compared to the amount that they receive in roaming charges. Is their intent to increase their profits by only receiving roaming charges from other networks?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Kevin (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:49pm

      Re: Too Much Data

      Amazingly enough, it even says what you did (that Verizon was removing people who were paying less than they were costing the company in roaming charges, not for using "excessive" data as this article claims) in the article, in a quote from Verizon.

      Yet, in the hysterical rush to vilify Verizon, that part was skipped right over in favor of "they don't explain why they're kicking people off." Yes, they did. Very clearly.

      Are we expecting Verizon to subsidize these users? For-profit companies can voluntarily make decisions to sell loss-leaders and things of that nature. But to dress a company up as the devil for daring to boot customers who are, month after month, not simply reducing profit margins but creating negative revenue is patently absurd.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 1:46pm

    Mixup

    A spokesman confirms that Verizon does in fact know the definition of "ummm-limited"... and it does not mean without limit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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