Saturday, September 16, 2017

Verizon plans to terminate 8,500 rural accounts due to roaming data usage

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Verizon is sending out notices that it will disconnect 19,000 lines spanning 8,500 accounts due to high roaming fees. Users in rural parts of 13 states (Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin) face the ax by October 17. If the current customers don’t move to a new carrier by the deadline, they could lose the ability to port their phone number.


Despite being enrolled in the company’s “LTE in Rural America” program and being offered unlimited plans, it looks like many families will lose the best option they have for cellular service. The LTE in Rural America plan’s purpose was for Verizon to team up with small rural carriers to build out cellular infrastructure and allow those small carriers to lease spectrum. Now, Verizon is trying to pull out of those agreements and leave some customers out in the cold.


Verizon claims that the affected customers are using “substantial amounts of data”. On the other hand, one of the affected customer says her family has never used more than 50GB a month across four lines despite having an unlimited plan. The problem comes down to, as it often does, dollars and cents.


Verizon can’t make money off these customers if they’re paying out more in roaming fees than bringing in from monthly payments. The problem is so bad, apparently, that Verizon is willing to forgive any current charges on the account and the balance of financed phones to get customers to move. While this sounds like a great deal for the customer, the lack of other desirable carrier options negates any savings or credits they might see. Often in rural areas, the only choices are national carriers who get spotty coverage and regional carriers who charge higher prices.


In a statement to Ars Technica, a Verizon spokesperson said, “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(…) We sent these notices in advance so customers have plenty of time to choose another wireless provider”


It seems, though, that not every line in these areas will be disconnected. Many lines who aren’t costing Verizon money will remain active. Verizon refused to give a cap on how much roaming data one could use before they became unprofitable. The letters that will be heading out to affected Verizon customers soon don’t give the recipients any recourse or options to stay with the carrier.


What do you think of Verizon’s move to cut off these customers? Is it a cold and heartless move or do you understand its side? Sound off down in the comments.

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