Friday, January 12, 2018

Thousands Get Booted for Roaming Too Much

We were updating our database of  cellular carriers in Montana and got an earful of complaints about wireless customers who were notified that their service with Verizon Wireless was being terminated.  The latest batch of cutoffs involved 8,500 customers with 19,000 lines of service across 13 states (Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin).  Other areas of the country were affected in the summer of 2017.  It was the Montana customers who pointed it out to us.

The problem is not a new one.  These people signed up with Verizon Wireless with the assumption that their plan would work anywhere in the US.  When these customers used their phone mostly outside of the Verizon network, they started racking up huge roaming charges that Verizon did not want to cover, which they are perfectly within their right to do.  Each of these users received a 30-day notice and they thought their wireless world was about to end.  Part of the problem was Verizon's new, "Unlimited" plans which generated a whole lotta Data roaming.

Fortunately, since these people had already been able to use their cellular phones, somebody was offering coverage in their area and all they needed to do was switch carriers.  Easy for us...and easy for Verizon to say.  In some cases, these customers went back to a landline.  Others had the luck to explain their problem to a neighbor or store who provided the name of the local carrier who actually provided their wireless service.

Of course it's never that simple.  Mid-Rivers Wireless in eastern Montana got so many requests for new service they ran out of phones and had to turn customers away. A few others, like Nemont Wireless welcomed new customers with open arms.  A very small number of users found relief at the local Walmart store or online with Straight Talk or similar service with barely a hiccup in service.  What incensed so many customers was how much they invested in a new phone from Verizon which they feared would become an expensive paper weight.  With most of the alternative carriers' "Bring Your Own Phone" plans, even that need not be a problem.  However, most, but not all of these "Alternatives", do not offer an unlimited Data option.

We don't want to single out Verizon, they're not the only one doing this, but they could have been a little less heavy-handed, and it would have been a bit less traumatic if so many customers weren't terminated at the same time.  It's our job to let everyone know there's usually a wireless solution to every wireless problem.

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