Verizon Is Still Abusing The Hell Out Of The Word 'Unlimited'

from the beating-up-the-dictionary dept

Back in 2007, Verizon was forced to strike an agreement with the New York State Attorney General for falsely marketing data plans as "unlimited" when the plans had very clear limits. Thirteen years later and it's not clear the company has learned much of anything.

Verizon's 2020 wireless plans still falsely claim that users get "unlimited" data for a premium price point on top of base surcharges. But you're to ignore that things like HD and 4K streaming cost extra. Or the fact that if you're enrolled in something like Verizon's recent "Unlimited Plus" plan, "unlimited data" is defined as up to 15 GB of usage, after which your connection is throttled for the remainder of the billing cycle. Such surcharges of course don't include additional fees to connect additional devices to this so-called "unlimited" connection, be it your Apple Watch or your tablet.

Verizon recently updated this plan, offering double the data allotment (30 GB) when connected to Verizon's 4G LTE network, while providing "unlimited data" while users are connected to its newer 5G network:

"Unlimited Plus gives customers double the 4G LTE premium data for jetpacks, tablets and laptops, and includes unlimited access to blazing-fast 5G Ultra Wideband speeds when connected on 5G Ultra Wideband devices."

While that superficially sounds nice, Verizon's 5G network is barely available to the vast majority of customers. One recent study found that due to coverage issues with the millimeter wave spectrum Verizon is using for 5G, 5G was available roughly 0.4% of the time even in "launched" markets. The other problem? Verizon's "unlimited" plans continue to include not only a ban on faster HD and 4K streaming (unless you pay more), but all manner of additional surcharges to connect additional devices to your already pricey connection:

"As of late last week, Verizon introduced a new version of its “Unlimited Plus” plan, which attaches to existing wireless plans for an extra $30 a month. Then, if you would like to connect more devices to your plan beyond your phone, you can sign up for an unlimited connected device plan and upgrade to Unlimited Plus for another $10 a month. If you have a tablet or hotspot, Verizon will sell you another unlimited plan for those for an extra $20 a month.

The new “Unlimited Plus” offers unlimited-unlimited 5G and up to 30 GB of “premium” 4G LTE data. So it appears you get double the unlimited data as well as an infinite amount of 5G service which is probably not provided in your area (or if you turn the corner, or go indoors in an area that has the service). But if you are connecting a hotspot, laptop, or tablet to your plan, then Verizon redefines unlimited again, this time to mean up to 50 GB of 5G data (almost not available anywhere) and then you get speed throttled to 3 Mbps for the rest of the billing cycle, but just on those devices."

There's simply no way the majority of normal consumers actually understand what most of this means. And that's of course quite by design. One, the complexity and caveats make it difficult to impossible to compare Verizon's pricing to its competitors. That helps mask the fact that U.S. wireless subscribers pay not only some of the highest prices in the developed world for wireless data, but those connections are some both some of the slowest in the world, and inundated with all kinds of murky restrictions on what you can do with your new connection. How innovative!

The other major benefit is that consumers confused by these plans will generally subscribe to the most expensive plan they can afford to avoid headaches. Basically, Verizon and other U.S. wireless carriers adore making their plans intimidating and confusing because they know you'll pay a premium to avoid bullshit surprises and headaches in the middle of your billing cycle. They're effectively intentionally sowing confusion, then charging you a premium to avoid arbitrary penalties. Like the airlines, banking, and other industries, U.S. policymakers treat reining in this kind of behavior as a non-starter.

Which is why it was surprising that net neutrality rules, which mandated transparency and other base-level restrictions on this kind of stuff, managed to get passed in the first place. But not only did the Trump administration eliminate these hugely popular consumer protections based on bullshit data, they effectively lobotomized the agency's authority over telecom at lobbyist behest. Said lobotomized FCC then rubber stamped the T-Mobile Sprint merger (without even looking at the data or warnings by antitrust experts), ensuring less overall price competition over the next few years.

In short if you're an American who likes paying a lot for mediocre, spotty service delivered on a platter of intentionally confusing options designed to nickel-and-dime you into oblivion, things are looking good for you over the next 3-5 years. Enjoy!

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Filed Under: fcc, truth in advertising, unlimited, wireless
Companies: verizon

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  1. identicon
    AnnieGetYourCucumber, 2 Oct 2020 @ 9:45am


    So Verizon is offering Unlimited 30GB of data, right?

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