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Verizon Businesses Communications Network Networking United States Wireless Networking

8,500 Verizon Customers Disconnected Because of 'Substantial' Data Use (arstechnica.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon is disconnecting another 8,500 rural customers from its wireless network, saying that roaming charges have made certain customer accounts unprofitable for the carrier. The 8,500 customers have 19,000 lines and live in 13 states (Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin), a Verizon Wireless spokesperson told Ars today. They received notices of disconnection this month and will lose access to Verizon service on October 17. Verizon said in June that it was only disconnecting "a small group of customers" who were "using vast amounts of data -- some as much as a terabyte or more a month -- outside of our network footprint." But one customer, who contacted Ars this week about being disconnected, said her family never used more than 50GB of data across four lines despite having an "unlimited" data plan. We asked Verizon whether 50GB a month is a normal cut-off point in its disconnections of rural customers, but the company did not provide a specific answer. "These customers live outside of areas where Verizon operates our own network," Verizon said. "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. We sent these notices in advance so customers have plenty of time to choose another wireless provider."
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8,500 Verizon Customers Disconnected Because of 'Substantial' Data Use

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    He could have stopped this and didn't. It's time to impeach him, NOW!!!

  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @05:05PM (#55206099) Homepage Journal

    A small rural provider could easily pump fake data to bill big phone companies for fake usage...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 15, 2017 @05:20PM (#55206191)

      A small rural provider could easily pump fake data to bill big phone companies for fake usage...

      It's possible. But, quite honestly, I'd accept "cheap and lying bastards run cell companies and arbitrarily decide they didn't really mean 'unlimited' even though they said so" on face value without the need for someone to be actively doing something like you suggest.

      There doesn't need to be some conspiracy to defraud Verizon when Verizon being cheap bastards who rely on you not using data is a 100% plausible thing.

      I never feel a need to try to spin reality so that cell companies aren't greedy assholes. It seems like a waste of time and an excess of goodwill to companies that don't deserve it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Highly doubtful at least among the majority of them. Maybe a small number are doing this.

      No Verizon had ZERO business operating in those areas if they don't own their network or they should be upfront about the limitations of service by not being on their network. As someone who grew up at least more rural than most of those people, those cell lines were probably the only connection they have.

      Verizon should be very careful about doing this, they could face a class action lawsuit that could heavily damage

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        "No Verizon had ZERO business operating in those areas"

        VZW, like most other carriers, is trying to provide good service for their customers. Hence, they have roaming agreements with other carriers so their customers have coverage outside the VZW network. Vacationing outside VZW coverage? They've got you covered. But these customers are abusing that by getting a cheap VZW plan and using roaming data as their primary Internet service. They're only spoiling it for other VZW customers, and have ZERO business a
    • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @05:46PM (#55206395) Journal

      They wouldn't have to.

      Anecdotal I know, but it will make sense: Out here in the sticks, a lot of folks use their phones as a de-facto Internet connection (video, FB, whatever), since an actual hardline ISP connection is either out of their budget (Satellite) and otherwise technically unavailable in their neighborhood (DSL, Cable, fiber, etc... even Sat is impossible to get on some properties due to trees, hills, etc). Other folks figure there's no need to bother with a full-on laptop/desktop if their phones do pretty much the same thing.

      • a lot of folks use their phones as a de-facto Internet connection (video, FB, whatever), since an actual hardline ISP connection is either out of their budget (Satellite)

        I don't see how that's the case. Last I checked, Exede Satellite Internet [exede.com] was cheaper than Verizon's LTE Internet Installed [verizonwireless.com]. Verizon has 10 GB/mo for $60/mo or 20 GB/mo for $90/mo, with $10/GB thereafter. Exede has 12 GB/mo for $50/mo or 25 GB/mo for $75/mo, with the meter stopped at 0300-0600 local time ("Free Zone"), and deprioritization instead of overage fees ("Liberty Pass").

        • I believe you're comparing a 4G home Internet connection to a 4G phone plan... these folks are only using their phones.

          Also, incidentally, I had (and still have) Exede. Their 30GB Liberty Pass plan used to cost me $169/mo after fees, taxes, etc. (nowadays I only pay $50/mo for their 10GB plan since it's just a backup - working from home lets me write it off on taxes). Once you blow through your cap, you can pay $10-20/GB for more data, or suffer through ISDN speeds (they say it's 1-5bps, but I have never e

          • By contrast, for $169/mo I can get 4 Verizon phones with "unlimited" data and have change left over. ;)

            Does this include tethering to a desktop or laptop computer, or must the "unlimited" data (which in practice is more similar to a 30 GB Liberty Pass) be transferred to and from apps running on one of the four phones? If it doesn't include tethering, would it be practical to attempt to use an Android phone as a computer by installing GNURoot Debian and XSDL and connecting a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and HDMI monitor?

          • by pnutjam ( 523990 )

            By contrast, for $169/mo I could get 4 Verizon phones with "unlimited" data and have change left over. ;)

            FTFY, since that option is now past

  • right here [businessinsider.com]
    • There's a big difference in pricing scarce resources for local economic conditions, and straight-up lying to customers as to the definition of "unlimited" when you're trying to sucker them into signing a contract.

  • Nationwide coverage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hackwrench ( 573697 ) <hackwrench@hotmail.com> on Friday September 15, 2017 @05:12PM (#55206149) Homepage Journal
    Why do I get the impression Verizon misrepresented its coverage.
    • But I was told they had the best unlimited!
    • Not from headline:

      8,500 Verizon Customers Disconnected Because of 'Substantial' Data Use

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Better question: Why would you sign up with a cell phone carrier that doesn't operate where you live, especially one whose only good point is the supposed strength of their network. Verizon's certainly not known for great value, and as this article shows, customer service-wise they suck, too.

      I mean, if these people were on roaming using all this data, obviously there is somebody with towers up where they live.

      • Better question: Why would you sign up with a cell phone carrier that doesn't operate where you live, especially one whose only good point is the supposed strength of their network. Verizon's certainly not known for great value, and as this article shows, customer service-wise they suck, too.

        I mean, if these people were on roaming using all this data, obviously there is somebody with towers up where they live.

        Best question: Why would you sell service in an area you don't service and to people you don't want to service?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Better question: Why would you sign up with a cell phone carrier that doesn't operate where you live, especially one whose only good point is the supposed strength of their network. Verizon's certainly not known for great value, and as this article shows, customer service-wise they suck, too.

        I mean, if these people were on roaming using all this data, obviously there is somebody with towers up where they live.

        Because Verizon says that their network provides service in your area. Walk into the store, and ask them. They will tell you that they have the best network coverage, and sell you a phone and a contract for service. You then go home and use it... and it works.

        That is all the average consumer knows or cares about: The commercial said it is the best coverage, the guy in the store said it would work, and it works.

        • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

          In my last home it didn't work. The only thing that worked there was AT&T. That's why I have AT&T now. Verizon has great coverage but contrary to popular opinion it's not everywhere. At my job the majority of my coworkers were on Verizon. It worked there but no 4G data. They were surprised when I could stream HD video effortlessly. But then I knew there were places I had no coverage or slow data as well. There is no perfect network, especially outside of major populated areas.

      • Better question: Why would you sign up with a cell phone carrier that doesn't operate where you live

        But they do, their background details should not at all be relevant to the customer.

      • by I75BJC ( 4590021 )
        A better question might be: "Why does Verizon sell to people who live in areas that they (Verizon) don't serve?" I bought a Verizon Hot-Spot to use at a work site. The Verizon store personnel used a Verizon computer connected to the Verizon Internet to show a Verizon webpage that Verizon had Verizon coverage at the site. Verizon personnel happily took my money for their Verizon Hot-Spot and Verizon cellular service. When I took the Hot-Spot to that site, there was no coverage. Why did Verizon give thei
    • Because you live in a country where it is permissible to defraud your customers but not possible for customers to defraud giant corporations. Enjoy your crap version of unregulated corrupt capitalism you cucks.

    • Why do I get the impression Verizon misrepresented its coverage.

      It didn't. The industry is absolutely full of behind the scenes deals sharing towers and coverage as you go. It happens all over the world, just because you're with Vodafone and your phone doesn't say it's roaming doesn't mean you're connected to a Vodafone tower. e.g. We were doing a proof of concept with Vodafone a while back and found a setting in the infrastructure that was blocking it from working properly. 2 towers were fixed within a day, the 3rd tower in our coverage zone took a week to fix because

  • Warnings (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    While I understand that roaming agreements are expensive, Verizon is wrong here. They should give the customers some warning, telling them to reduce their usage right away or be terminated. Also, they need to be transparent about their standards for disconnection, and this is anything but transparent. Although Verizon probably has the legal right to do this, it's absolutely the wrong way to do it. This is a situation where the FCC should intervene and require transparency from Verizon.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If they're losing money on average in certain areas due to roaming users, then they should install a tower there.
    IMO, so long as we are granting them a nation wide monopoly on the frequencies they use, they should be required to provide service to users nationwide, with roaming to fill in their holes at their expense.

    • by clonehappy ( 655530 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @05:55PM (#55206453)

      It's a lot more complicated than that but yes, I agree with your sentiment. The catch is that the customers they are booting off are actually using Verizon's spectrum. Verizon essentially sublet their own spectrum to some rural carriers in order to build LTE networks in places they didn't want to spend the money to do so. Until just recently, however, they advertised this LTEiRA (LTE in Rural America partnership) coverage as NATIVE Verizon service.

      This was marketed as a win-win for Verizon and the other carriers, as Verizon now has coverage in all these rural areas they didn't want to spend money on, and the rural carrier gets access to spectrum that they otherwise wouldn't have been able to utilize. Where things get murky is here: people who live or spend the majority of their time in those coverage areas should technically have service directly from the rural carrier, not Verizon. However, either through falsifying their billing address or just plain ineptitude and/or unscrupulous salesmanship from Verizon, many of these customers had Verizon's own branded service but were permanently roaming on the rural carriers.

      The rural carriers were almost assuredly fine with this, as they were probably (definitely?) making more money off of the roaming bills to Verizon for those subscribers than they would have if they actually serviced them directly. I only say probably, as the terms of those agreements are obviously closely held corporate secrets, which the average person will never be privy to, but it's common knowledge in the industry that roaming is charged out the proverbial ass by the rural carriers to the big guys. The customers were obviously fine with this, as they got access to better deals on Verizon than they would from regional and local rural carriers that always have to charge more money for service simply due to economies of scale, they just don't have the subscriber base to offer the same price points as the Big 4.

      Again, not excusing Verizon's behavior, but they were the ones losing out in this situation. I say this because up until this point, Verizon has NEVER enforced ANY kind of roaming limits. Not on their CDMA 1X/EVDO roaming, and not on LTE. People have had native Verizon service and permanently roamed on carriers like Bluegrass, Appalachian, US Cellular, and others for literally years and never heard a peep out of Verizon. I'm sure the vast, vast majority of these subscribers never knew there was any problem with what they were doing, and seeing as Verizon signed up many of these customers outside of their service area, they shouldn't be absolved of responsibility here seeing that they were advertising this as part of their standard LTE coverage area.

      It sucks, but most of these customers, even ones that weren't using "substantial" amounts of data (some using 1GB a month or less are being kicked off) will just have to bite the bullet and pay the cost of their service to the native local rural carrier and be done with it. But further complicating matters, there are roaming-only networks like Wireless Partners in Maine that don't even sell their own service, they only exist to service Verizon roaming customers, and from what I understand there aren't many other options at least in that specific area. These networks will either have to find a way to sell service natively or take a serious hit to their bottom line.

      But all that being said, if Verizon has been granted a license to use spectrum in a given area, they should absolutely be held accountable for providing service there, regardless of whether or not they do it through a third-party or not. The whole situation is complicated, unfortunate for the customers affected, and still smells of simple greed from Verizon but at the end of the day, it's only cell phone service. People will figure it out and life will go on.

      • "The whole situation is complicated, unfortunate for the customers affected, and still smells of simple greed from Verizon but at the end of the day, it's only cell phone service. People will figure it out and life will go on."

        Applause. So happy to hear the priorities straight.

  • One sided (Score:5, Insightful)

    by techdolphin ( 1263510 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @05:28PM (#55206267)

    If Verizon can arbitrarily dump consumers that are under contract, but have not violated the terms of service, then consumers should be able to dump Verizon early without penalty.

    • Those consumers are free to negotiate such a service contract or find a provider with such a service contract. I don't give them much chance outside of the month-to-month agreements that seem common enough.

      • Those consumers are free to negotiate such a service contract

        You don't really buy that line do you?

        Negotiate == Pay wireless carriers asking price or go without.

        • Is reading two sentences too much effort for you?

          But, sure offer verizon enough money and I'm sure they'll make a special service contract just for you. Enough is likely at ludicrous levels of course.

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            In other words, there will be no such negotiation and there's not enough competition to make such a thing happen within their lifetimes.

    • Probably sure this is listed somewhere in the volumes of the ToS you sign.

    • Wrong. Using your mobile device on an extended partner network for a large period of time is considered a ToS violation.

    • Everybody has violated the terms of service. That's the point. They are ALL one sided.

      This one would start something like-

      "By attempting to use our service from outside of our service area, you agree to......"
      and
      "By using your handset to send or receive digital communications and/or data connections, you agree to......."
      and don't forget
      "You agree to private arbitration of any dispute, for any reason, under a arbiter of our choosing"

      I've often considered writing up my own personal terms of service, and usin

    • Considering that most of them likely aren't under contract now that Verizon has done away with contracts, they certainly can dump Verizon without any early penalty.

      They probably have to pay off the rest of their phone which is likely a few hundred dollars or turn it back in for no credit. But they wouldn't be penalized in any way.

    • That's exactly what customers can do whenever a carrier changes their terms of service - you can quit their 2-year or 3-year contract without paying an early termination fee [slickdeals.net].

      Of course the carriers don't exactly advertise this, but that's the way it's always been. Legally, if either side violates or voids contract terms, and the other side is not obligated to continue to honor the contract.
  • nope. in some areas where i travel Verizon is "it" and the only provider. AT&T, Sprint, etc. don't work at all. no bars. no nothing.
    • Given the customers in question are roaming on other networks and that is the reason for them being unprofitable (let's take verizon at their word for a minute...) then clearly there is another provider - the one they are roaming on.

    • This is the case where I live. Only Verizon will cough up any signal at all (depending on phone brand, model, etc) - though if you have T-Mobile or Sprint out here, you might get lucky and have enough signal to make a phone call.

  • 1) Financial

    2) Insurance

    3) Cellular/Internet/Telephony

    4) Al of the above

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @06:17PM (#55206563) Journal
    It is a for profit organization, it does what it has to improve profits.

    All the people who derided "government service is always inefficient, and private companies are always efficient" should take a moment to understand what the private companies mean by efficiency. For them efficiency is delivering least possible goods and services for most revenue, maximize profits.

    So next time some talking head starts a diatribe on government remember this.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      Ever stand in line at the social security office? The VA? Sure, private companies are greedy but generally they are efficient. The problems with Cell Service goes back to how the government set all this up in the beginning. The system has all kinds of problems in it. I had a great cell service years ago, then Verizon bought them. Instant suckage.

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        government and private enterprise actually share similar efficiency rates.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        So how much standing in line do you suppose you'll have to do to get decent service out of Verizon?

        • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

          I don't have any problem getting decent service out of AT&T. It actually surprised me since I hated their asses in the 70s. Considering what I pay them they f*cking need to give service.

    • You don't need a government service, just some consumer protection laws that prevent the very one sided contracts that are currently in place. Arbitrary cut-off without specifying the performance of a contract is illegal in most common-law countries.

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      prime example of why government intervention becomes neccesary.

      • We have weakened the government to such an extent, it will not be able to help real citizens. All the hard won freedom and liberties are being given to corporations too. Religious belief, freedom of speech, ... to corporations! Any foreign entity can start a corporation in America and instantly get all the liberties and freedom of American citizens, but they don't have the liabilities or responsibilities! It is insane what we are doing to the country by weakening our own government.
    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      They don't have to be a charity, they just have to stop the false advertising. If your service has limits, stop calling it unlimited! I'd that simple.

      We have a carrier around here that used to offer unlimited data while connected to their towers, but a specified amount when roaming on other towers. Had Verizon done this it would have been no problem. But instead they resorted to false advertising in a successful attempt to scam customers in to signing up for a service that was not as described.

      • Who is going enforce the contract? Government? The one you have actively undermined in every election? Starve the beast! Starve the beast!! Now the beast is going to come and rescue you?

        We have denigrated and insulted the civil service so much, meritorious people do not want to become civil servants. OK, OK continue to live in your theoretical world.

  • Years ago they courted a company I managed IT systems for. They tried to convince us to switch off slow 1 Mbit DSL (only thing available in the area) to their 6 Mbit 'wireless DSL' or whatever the hell they were calling it. They said there were no caps. The first month bill was horrific. We ditched them immediately and went back to the DSL provider. We'd regularly suck data down the pipe at nearly line speed. We'd regularly hit 1.5 TB/mo and the ISP *never* complained about the amount of data transfer
  • by Cyberpunk Reality ( 4231325 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @06:53PM (#55206751)

    Oh, right, because they supposedly serve the public good.

    Perhaps the People of the United States should figure out if Verizon, AT&T, and a great many other abusive corporations are profitable for the public, and if they find otherwise, revoke their charters.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      I believe we could improve the situation by eliminating bribing...I mean lobbying of our politicians by these Corps.

    • Or you could join the 20th century and enact some consumer protection laws that prevent stupidly one sided contracts and forced arbitration.

  • Verizon could have simply told them that they are going to be sending these rural customers to the local cell operators and transfer the contract to the rural guys. It would have been easy to retroactively put this into some terms of service agreement.

    Another example of corporate ineptitude.

    • by satsuke ( 263225 )

      The agreement is likely between the customer and Verizon, not the roaming partner.

      The other thing is some of these rural providers don't actually sell local subscriptions, their business model is putting up the capital for the cell sites and soaking in the roaming revenue from multiple national carriers.

      While this example does sell wireless service themselves, there's a company Pioneer Wireless in Kansas and Oklahoma. They are seperate from Verizon, yet to a VZ subscriber, it looks like native LTE coverage

  • by lapm ( 750202 )
    Wondering how many of these customers had unlimited plan. Witch case they might have case for court claiming service provider knew it might happen when they accepted the plan in first place.
  • It's your choice to offer unlimited plan. It's your choice to offer unlimited roaming without charging extra. It's your choice to not throttle heavy users. WTF are you doing blaming customers? It's like "free show if you attend a timeshare presentation" folks bitching if nobody ends up buying.

  • customers...in 13 states (Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin) ... were "using vast amounts of data ...outside of our network footprint."

    Based on Verizon's coverage map [verizonwireless.com], those customers must be clustered into single-pixel sized locations for about half the states.

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