Verizon Wireless has announced to 8,500 customers in rural parts of the country that it will no longer service them and all of their phones on their accounts as of October 17. The reason that Verizon Wireless is ditching these 8,500 rural customers, that have a total of 19,000 lines, is excessive data usage on networks owned by Verizon Wireless's roaming partners. In rural parts of the country where Verizon lacks its own wireless network, the carrier has partnered with smaller regional wireless carriers and allows its customers to roam on those networks free of charge. With the return of "unlimited" data plans, Verizon has decided this was a bad move and it is ditching those customers despite their contracts, essentially reneging on their commitment to service.
Verizon Wireless stated, "These customers live outside of areas where Verizon operates our own network. 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."
The rub for these customers is that Verizon is giving them no option at all to remain on the carrier. There is no provision to pay more, switch plans, or simply use less data. Verizon just wants these paying customers gone. Verizon even notes that if the customers don't have a new carrier by October 17 and have their phone numbers transferred, they will lose their phone number.
Verizon also stated, "We sent these notices in advance so customers have plenty of time to choose another wireless provider." A month isn't exactly lots of notice for many American's living on tight budgets, if the only alternative is another network where the phones they have from Verizon won't work, they have to cough up hundreds and hundreds of dollars for new devices. It's not clear if Verizon will allow these users to keep their existing Verizon devices if they haven't completely paid the phones off, presumably they won't.
Verizon customers received letters notifying them of the disconnection, the letters read in part, "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."
This move isn't only a problem for the rural customers, it's a significant issue for the rural carriers as well. Reports indicate that Verizon enticed these small rural carriers to build out their networks with new towers, under the promise of a roaming deal that would benefit the carrier. One of those small wireless carriers is called Wireless Partners and operates in Maine and New Hampshire. It was one of the 20 small rural carries chosen to work with Verizon three years ago when this free roaming program rolled out. Wireless Partners says that it constructed 13 new towers in Washington County as well, to expand coverage.
Now that Verizon has found out that roaming fees were higher than anticipated, it's pulling out of its rural service agreements in several areas. Wireless Partners says that it "plans to exhaust every effort to cause Verizon Wireless to rethink this decision and to honor the promise of its LRA program under which the network was constructed."
This isn't the first unpopular move that Verizon has made in an effort to save money since reintroducing unlimited data plans. Verizon also moved to cap streaming video to 720p or less on unlimited plans.