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July 26, 2006

Consumer Affairs Busts Verizon Wireless

By Glenn Fleishman

The folks at Consumer Affairs received a nastygram from Verizon Wireless, and serve them, sucka: Verizon cancels Consumer Affairs EVDO account! This is just too good. I and many others have written over the last year about how Verizon Wireless’s Unlmited BroadbandAccess is not equal to unlimited broadband access. Rather, they define legitimate use of their service as email, Web browsing, and intranet applications. Everything else is expressly forbidden in their contract. I call this metered service. They’ve also had a variety of documents leaked and letters posted by recipients that show that 10 gigabytes (GB) of usage per month is considered highly excessive no matter what you’re doing.

Consumer Affairs was told in a “terse” letter something we’ve read elsewhere before: “We … found that your usage over the past 30 days exceeded 10 Gigabytes. … This level of usage is so extraordinarily high that it could only have been attained by activities, such as streaming and/or downloading movies and video, prohibited by the terms and conditions.”

As TechDirt points out, Verizon Wireless spokesperson Jeffrey Nelson delivers the money shot: “It’s very clear in all the legal materials we put out…It’s unlimited amounts of data for certain types of data,” he said.

Woo! Consumer Affairs, you have now been served! Woo!

And they bust some moves. They maintained an access log using Verizon’s own software that showed 2 GB of usage over the last year. And they do the math. 10 GB over 30 days being 40 times average use means that an average user downloads 8.3 MB per day, “less than 12 seconds of constant downloading at the service’s average speed.” They did get that wrong. It’s actually two minutes. (If you average 400 to 700 Kbps you get 550 Kbps—kilobits per second. 8.3 MB times eight bits per byte divided by 550 Kbps gets you 120 seconds.)

Further, a second Consumer Affairs EVDO card has seen quite high use during business travel, and that account was not canceled.

Verizon Wireless gets the last shot. “Nelson said the service, which Verizon introduced in Fall 2003, can be hindered if one person downloads too much….’The wireless spectrum is a limited and finite service,’ he said.”

Fascinating. I don’t recall seeing that phrase in the ads that tell us why EVDO is better than Wi-Fi. (Some Wi-Fi hotspot operators impose monthly limits, too, and when they do, they’re often in the 10 GB range!)

I’m not alone in laughing at this situation. Not because I take delight in tweaking Verizon Wireless. They’ve built a good and reliable service that whenever I’ve tested it has worked extremely well. And they get rave reviews for the ubiquity, the consistent speed, and the cost relative to utility.

No, the reason I and others point fingers and say, “HAW haw” is that Verizon Wireless oversells this service in its marketing, as TechDIrt also notes. Of course, spectrum is finite. Of course, they have to limit usage. Of course, some users could spoil it for everyone. But that only comes out in the pinch.

The inroads that Clearwire might make in part of this market may have to do with not supporting legacy applications, and being able to use the aspect of OFDMA in mobile WiMax that allows per-user provisioning on dynamic basis (offering dedicated capacity over short periods of time). I know that Clearwire has limited coverage area and limited bandwidth; I know that Sprint Nextel has a whole lot more. There’s nothing specifically superior in mobile WiMax than EVDO or UMTS/HSDPA. Rather, it’s unencumbered, and will be built with robust backhaul and robust expectations.

Posted by Glennf at July 26, 2006 8:23 PM

Categories: EVDO


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