Verizon recently notified around 8,500 rural wireless customers — accounting for nearly 20,000 phone numbers — that their service was going to be cut off for good on Oct. 17 because they spent too much time roaming off the Verizon network. Following the negative public reaction to this news, Verizon has decided to give these customers more time to find another wireless carrier or switch over to a Verizon plan with data caps.
Just to recap for those coming in late: Verizon has been targeting groups of rural customers with “unlimited” data plans because these subscribers are using lots of roaming data, even though this data is supposed to be included in the unlimited plan.
Verizon’s argument is that these people are obviously not residing within the Verizon coverage area; glossing over the fact that maybe they are residing in a Verizon zone, but that Verizon’s rural coverage is so spotty that they may have to regularly work or travel through areas without direct access to Big V’s network.
Since 2010, Verizon has participated in partnership program with smaller wireless providers to allow for LTE roaming in rural areas. That was a fine idea for Verizon at the time, since nearly all of its plans had strict monthly data caps. People couldn’t run up too many gigabytes of data on this roaming network without having to pay an overage fee. But now that Verizon is once again offering unlimited data plans, these roaming customers are costing Verizon money.
The original notices sent out in early September gave affected subscribers until Oct. 17 to find a new provider. If they didn’t find one by that time, the customer would not only be without phone service, but they would be unable to later port their old Verizon number over to the new carrier.
Now, Verizon has softened its stance, particularly after rural police officers and first-responders who currently use Verizon responded negatively to this rushed “get off our network” declaration.
Today, the company announced that the affected customers now have until Dec. 1 to find a new provider, giving these subscribers about another six weeks to switch.
Some customers said that they would be left with no viable options if they couldn’t get Verizon service. For them, Verizon is allowing them to stay, but only if they switch to one of three tiered data plans with monthly caps of 2GB, 5GB, or 8GB. Folks must make that decision by Dec. 1 as well.
“Supporting these roaming customers can often be economically challenging, especially supporting those on plans with unlimited data or other high data plans,” reads a statement from Verizon. “However, we are continuing to look for ways to support existing roaming customers with LTE service.”