Verizon Wireless announced that it will be disconnecting at least 8,500 customers from its wireless network. In the announcement, the wireless carrier explained that this move was to get rid of roaming costs associated with these users that have been making them unprofitable enough to serve.
The 8,500 number largely comes from its rural customers in 13 states namely Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin. Surprisingly, this 8,500 customer count comprises of 19,000 lines.
According to a spokesperson for the carrier, they have already sent out disconnection notices to the affected customers this month. The disconnection will take place on October 17.
In its release, the carrier gave an explanation for such a drastic move; indicating that the customers they will be disconnecting reside in areas outside where Verizon operates their own network. A number of the affected lines consume a large amount of data while roaming on the networks of other providers. And according to the carrier, these lines generate roaming coasts that exceed the monthly amount being paid by these customers.
Not the First Time
A customer affected by Verizon's decision has reached out to Ars Technica earlier in the week to share that her family never used over 50GB of data across four lines, even though they were on an "unlimited" data plan. With Verizon's decision affecting her, the user plans on telling her friends to "steer clear of Verizon."
When this 50GB cut-off point was brought up with Verizon, the carrier did not give a direct answer. Instead, the carrier said that their current customers in the said areas who do not rack up roaming charges higher than what they pay the carrier every month will not be affected by the disconnection. Moreover, those who reside in areas wherein the carrier operates its own network will not be affected by the disconnection too.
On the letters Verizon sent out to its customers, it does not look like the carrier provided any further options for its customers to stay with Verizon; even if that meant reducing data use. The carrier also noted that customers who fail to take action by the October 17 disconnection date will not be able to transfer their phone numbers to a different provider.
Trouble for Verizon Ahead
As it stands, Verizon could be in trouble for its decision to disconnect these customers. It looks like small carriers plan to hold the company accountable for its action. One of these carriers, Maine's Wireless Partners, revealed that it was one of the firms chosen to work with Verizon in its plan to expand service in rural areas three years ago. The company was able to construct 13 new towers in Washington County, serving coverage along routes 1 and 9.
After this, Verizon started enticing new customers by offering plans with no data limitations. This was, however, before the company found out the price tag for roaming was higher than they had anticipated. As a result, the carrier wants to pull out of its rural service agreements in these areas-- including the areas which Wireless Partners constructed towers in.
Maine Public Advocate Barry Hopkins notes that Verizon's actions seem like they lured other companies to build out in rural areas throughout the country and greatly promoted this by saying they will be covering these areas. Now that it seems like Verizon is cutting back on this program, small carriers like Wireless Partners plan 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."
Hopkins is scheduled to meet with Maine Attorney General Janet Mills on how the state plans to respond to Verizon's decision.
Source: Ars Technica, BGR, StopTheCap