*It’s Unlimited, But There Are Some Limits…

May 10, 2018 11:35am
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I’ve written about this topic before, but it bears repeating because right now it’s something that I’m a little frustrated about.

Simply put, whether we’re talking cellular or fixed line, I think that Internet access should be sold as a utility, not a service.

In layman’s terms, either bill me for usage or bill me for speed, but don’t double dip and bill me for both.

This issue resurfaced in my mind because last night we got a notification from Verizon that we’re almost at our plan’s limit for data for the month, though there are still 12 days left in the billing cycle. Our plan is for 8 GB, which is usually more than enough, but we did a lot of traveling in the last month and tethering the kids’ iPad in the car always eats up a lot of data.

So I look at my options to see that they’ve eliminated the rest of the buckets of data above ours – the next step is just an Unlimited Plan, or rather two unlimited plans…

  • The first plan is an extra $50/month and adds unlimited data … but they reserve the right to throttle you down to 3G speeds due to “network congestion” (i.e. “Hi, net neutrality! Somebody else paid more, so they get to go first!!!”). Also, mobile video is limited to DVD quality (480p). Also, mobile hotspot connectivity is limited to 3G speeds as well.
  • The second plan is an extra $80/month and this time your unlimited data can only be throttled if you exceed 22 GB/line in a given month. Mobile video is limited to 720p. Mobile hotspot comes with a 15 GB allowance at LTE speeds, after which it will be throttled down to 3G.

Just so that we’re all on the same page here:

So where do we start?!

I have an iPhone 7, my wife has an iPhone 8 Plus – mine supports 720p, hers with the larger screen is 1080p, so both are getting sub-optimal video quality on the lower unlimited plan. We won’t even muddy the waters by talking about iPads here.

Throttling speeds are a HUGE difference here – Verizon cites their 3G threshold at 600 Kbps, whereas I’ve done speed tests showing anywhere from 20 – 50 Mbps for LTE. The latter will easily support streaming audio and video, whereas 600 Kbps should support streaming music over Pandora (which requires 25-50% of that) but I wouldn’t get my hopes up about video, and frankly, tethering my laptop to those speeds would be like a trip back to 2001.

And lastly, the biggest point of all – what is unlimited if it is, in fact, capped or throttled?!?!?!?!?!

I find it appalling that Verizon sold off its FiOS business a few years ago so that they could focus on “mobile as the future of broadband” if their idea of that future isn’t bright and shiny, incredible pipes but instead these hack and slash toll booths that all of the carriers swore they wouldn’t do with net neutrality, but what do you know … now they’re doing it and the current FCC chair couldn’t care less!

Maybe it’s an “undesirable business model,” but I just want access to data.

You sell me a pipe. Bill me either by how much data I use (like the electric or water company) or what capacity I have access to use (like my home broadband), and that’s it.

I shouldn’t have to consider the screen resolution of each of my devices or what tethering speeds I need to be able to do mobile work from my laptop – not when you’ve got an LTE network capable of speeds faster than the majority of residential broadband.

I spent about an hour looking into this last night and getting more and more riled up as I learned about the details, until I finally wondered if maybe I should finally consider switching to another provider, but they’re all pretty much doing the same thing!

This is exactly the kind of thing that the FCC is supposed to be protecting consumers against.

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