Verizon’s shift to tiered data plans and its killing off of its unlimited data plans has upset many subscribers, but it wasn’t unexpected. The major wireless providers in the U.S. have been shifting away from the unlimited data plans of the past for a while now. It’s clear why: smartphones have shifted phone usage away from voice calls toward messaging and data. Simply put, data is where the money is. What’s strange is that because the carriers started off giving out unlimited plans, their public relations departments are having trouble describing how newer, more expensive, data plans that give customers less data are actually customer-friendly. The incongruity between the carriers’ statements and reality can be frustrating, but they can sometimes make for quite a farce.
In an interview today on American Public Media’s Marketplace, reporter John Moe had the opportunity to speak with Verizon spokesperson Karen Smith about why the company was moving toward higher-priced tiered plans. At first, Moe gives her the benefit of a couple of leading questions. He asks whether Verizon is afraid of running out of room on their network. She responds, “Not at all,” and states that the company is “aggressively” expanding its 4G LTE network. Ok, so Moe asks if Verizon needs more expensive data plans to pay for that expansion. Smith doesn’t answer the question, but instead states that Verizon has switched to a “device model” and that they are going to charge customers by the megabyte. “Why?” asks Moe. What follows is the most awkward pregnant pause I’ve ever heard.
Smith, after a good 10-count, follows up with statements explaining that that higher data usage actually is causing speed and reliability concerns for Verizon’s network. Obviously, this contradicts her answer to Moe’s first question. Oh, well. Her answers provided all the information anyone really listening would need. It’s easy to understand that, “We can’t give away minutes and need to charge you more for data to maintain our revenue,” isn’t the most tactful way to frame the story for Verizon.
You can listen to the exchange below, and hear for yourself how desperate Verizon Wireless is to maintain the image that their new plans are the height of customer-friendliness. The exchange begins at the 1:15 mark: