Verizon Ending Service For Thousands Of Rural Customers
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is terminating the plans of 8,500 rural customers in 13 states over data usage. The customers are spread across Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin. A Verizon spokesman said that seven of the states have less than 500 customers, while four states have between 500 and 1,000 customers. In total, the customers have 19,000 lines on Verizon.
The customers were notified of the disconnection earlier this month via letter. The disconnection letters say that these customers’ service is scheduled to end on October 17. Verizon said, “We sent these notices in advance so customers have plenty of time to choose another wireless provider.” The company also announced that it would forgive the remaining owed balances for any devices financed through Verizon by the customers scheduled for disconnection.
The letters do not provide any options for customers to continue working with Verizon. Verizon also warns customers that after the October 17 disconnection date, “you will no longer be able to transfer your phone numbers to a different provider.” Verizon says that businesses, government and public safety customers will not be impacted by the disconnections.
Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, said the cancellation notices were going to extremely heavy data users who were costing the company money. Verizon said that “the roaming costs generated by these lines exceed what these consumers pay us each month.” Nobody but Verizon knows the exact amount of money involved.
The affected customers are supported by Verizon’s LTE in Rural America (LRA) program. The program depends on small rural carriers who lease Verizon spectrum to build their own networks. In May 2015, Verizon claimed that the LRA program covered 2.6 million people.
The LRA program provided technical support and resources to 21 rural wireless carriers to help them build 4G networks. Verizon was then able to sell service plans to customers who would be using the new networks. Even though Verizon customers may not see a “roaming” indicator on their phone in these network areas, Verizon has to pay roaming charges to the local network operator because they’re technically on another network.
The rural network companies will now lose revenue when customers are kicked off the services. In most cases, there aren’t many options besides Verizon where these families live. States are now deciding how to respond to the disconnections.
It is unclear how much data customers can actually use before getting kicked off the network. Verizon’s disconnection notices went to some people using just a few gigabytes a month, according to reports. For other customers, it’s not clear how long their Verizon service will remain available.