Yesterday the internet exploded with ire for Verizon Wireless. That’s because CFO Fran Shammo said something unpopular at the J.P. Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom conference. Instead of focusing on what he actually said, the masses tweaked his words to mean that Verizon customers grandfathered into unlimited data plans would lose them once Verizon rolls out its data-share plans this summer. Unfortunately, the rush to vilify Verizon left some context behind.
Verizon customers grandfathered into unlimited plans will be able to keep them, even after the introduction of data-share plans. Changes will come when those customers wish to upgrade to 4G LTE devices. At that point they won’t be able to take their plans with them; instead they’ll have to choose from one of the new data-share plans.
In theory data share plans should benefit the consumer. We have plenty of devices that we can connect via cellular networks — smartphones, tablets, and laptops mainly — and to pay for multiple accounts for the same wireless network is redundant and wasteful. By offering shared data plans, carriers offer customers the opportunity to connect more devices, since they’re pulling data usage from the same account.
These data share plans also benefit family plans. Currently, Verizon customers with family plans have to purchase a data plan for each smartphone on the account. With data share families can use one big bucket of data. This is wonderful for people like my parents, who don’t have smartphones solely because of the $30 per month data fee. My dad, who is a freelancer and would benefit from having email on his phone, will upgrade to a smartphone once these data share plans come into effect. He’ll just split the cost of the overall data with my younger siblings who are still on the family plan.
Of course, Verizon won’t make this quite that consumer friendly. Despite Verizon’s claims that 4G LTE costs them less to deliver than 3G EVDO, they’ll price their plans in a way that allows them a greater profit. It’s the nature of any public company. As such, Verizon will pay less to deliver your data, while you pay more to access it. That’s a better point of outrage, but it should be directed at unrealistically demanding shareholders rather than the people who serve them.