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Lee Badman
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So Long, Unlimited Data Plan: Customer Focus Dies at Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless is putting an end to its unlimited data plan offering--the latest in a long line of customer-unfriendly moves by mobile carriers, according to our blogger.

It seems that, right now, the mobile carriers are counting on customers having short memories, deep pockets and low expectations. Blazing-fast networks aren't enough, as there are still human beings on the receiving end of the grief that comes with impressive throughput. The prevailing strategies blowing across the mobile space are decidedly customer-unfriendly, and the carriers are heading in a bad direction.

Consider my own situation, as a longtime Verizon Wireless customer (there are plenty of similar tales from other carriers' customers to be heard). Having long since cut the landline at home, we have five phones from Big V on our family plan. Three of those phones are in the hands of teenagers, and my own has a data plan, given my lines of work. I'm on an unlimited data plan--but not for long. But more on that in a bit.

My family grew up with New Every Two, the Verizon Wireless policy that let each phone be replaced for free or at significantly reduced cost every couple of years. And we made use of that, changing out the kids' flip/feature basic phones as the teens put normal wear and tear on them. We grew accustomed to it, and New Every Two was part of what kept us as loyal Verizon Wireless customers.

Not only was New Every Two recently killed off, but now it also costs $30 to update even the low-end feature phones. The website may show free for a given phone, but in the age of New Carrier Math, free equals $30. I was told by Verizon that this helps subsidize pricey units being sold at a loss, like the iPhone. In other words, I get dinged $30 to replace my daughter's "free" phone so those folks living the iPhone lifestyle benefit. Uh, hello? What's wrong with this picture? Even worse, when complaining via online chat with a Verizon rep, I was told this is actually a good deal because it's cheaper than other carriers. Uh huh, a good deal--for Verizon Wireless.

Let's talk about bloatware. On my smartphone, I have at least a dozen apps that I cannot remove. Evidently the NFL, Slacker Radio, Verizon Wireless itself and several other entities are also subsidizing smartphone costs as the slew of unwanted apps cannot be uninstalled and are a fact of life. I have no choice what crapware comes bundled into "my" phone. These apps take up memory and use my data plan and battery life against my wishes by checking into various mother ships for updates--and that's just supposed to be OK with me. With an unlimited data plan, perhaps I shouldn't care. But nothing is sacred these days, and unlimited ain't what it used to be.

Depending on the carrier, an unlimited data plan is actually quite limited. Again, using New Carrier Math, the word unlimited departs from being defined as "without limits" and has been reworked to loosely mean "a few gigabytes, after which you will pay quite a bit more than you might expect." It's absolutely nuts, and glitzy, sexy, high-tech-themed commercials make it no easier to swallow.

But the data plan story gets even worse. Verizon Wireless CFO Fran Shammo has announced (and rather coolly, I might add) that the much-loved $30 monthly data plans that many longtime customers like me enjoy will soon be a thing of the past. Despite what we signed up for, we're being forced into not-yet-defined family share plans, because, Shammo says, "That is beneficial to us"--us being Verizon Wireless. He might as well have said, "In your face, Loyal Customer!" Just like with the cable companies, the new mantra of dealing with mobile customers appears to be, "We say it, you pay it--and just shut up about it."

Evidently, the promise of smokin'-fast 4G networks is supposed to make everything else moot in the mind of the modern mobile customer. But it doesn't. Those of us with a longer history of loyally paying our bills to the carriers can't simply ignore that any friendly relationship we had as customers is being systematically dismantled by the carrier itself and replaced by overhyped promises of a fast network. And that's just not enough for some of us, as we want to be treated like valued customers again.

Thanks a bunch for nothing, Mr. Shammo.

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User Rank: Apprentice
5/21/2012 | 9:29:34 PM
re: So Long, Unlimited Data Plan: Customer Focus Dies at Verizon Wireless
I didn't subscribe to data plans-my blackberry grandfathered in. IMHO I am not that sorry for the carriers moves. I would like to see people get off their phones and drive, shop, pump gas, eat, etc etc because I don't want their conversations imposed on me all the time. I don't want to wait through 2 traffic lights while some txt or emails. Enough all ready with constantly connected. Just think how much money you'll be saving :)
Mike Fratto
Mike Fratto,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/19/2012 | 1:16:50 PM
re: So Long, Unlimited Data Plan: Customer Focus Dies at Verizon Wireless
You're spot on, Lee. When VZW announced the end of the unlimited last fall, I was nearing the end of my contract and I was looking for options. Sprint seemed the most likely at the time.

Since I got grandfathered in to unlimited 4G, I stuck with VZW. In January, I turned off Wi-Fi and went 3G only (4G sucks the battery dry for little perceived benefit). I burned through 2GB in less than 15 days. Half of that was a single HD video download from YouTube (A Google presentation). I was a few MB shy of 4GB by month end. I'd have to go up to a 5GB plan to avoid overages.

I suspect we, the customer, are victims of cell data popularity and the carriers can't keep up with infrastructure costs. We say this with Internet access in the 90's. This time there is less competition (really only 4 carriers in the US) and a high barrier to entry for new competitors.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/18/2012 | 2:56:37 AM
re: So Long, Unlimited Data Plan: Customer Focus Dies at Verizon Wireless
In fairness, Verizon clarified that the unlimited data plans would persist (after a slew of bad press) for legacy plan holders that don't take the subsidized 4G phone upgrade. Somewhat good news, but it doesn't touch the awful upgrade penalties on cheap phones, bloatware, and the willful co-authoring of new carrier math that redefine "free" and "unlimited".
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