wireless tower

Verizon has had a change of heart regarding a portion of the 8,500 wireless customers whose service it had planned to cancel and will allow certain customers to keep service on plans providing up to 8 gigabytes of data per month. But, according to a Verizon LTE in Rural America partner, important questions remain about the impact of the Verizon rural wireless customer cancellations.

Verizon Rural Wireless Customer Cancellations
A Verizon spokesperson confirmed in an email to Telecompetitor that the company had notified approximately 8,500 of its wireless customers that it would no longer offer service to them because the company’s costs when those customers roam on other carriers’ wireless networks exceed what the customers pay the company every month. Since that notification, the company learned that a “very small number” of those customers may use their personal phones in their roles as first responders and another “small group” may not have another option for wireless service, a Verizon spokesperson wrote in an email to Telecompetitor.

“After listening to these folks, we are committed to resolving these issues in the best interest of the customers and their communities,” the spokesperson said.

Those customers (first responders and those without another wireless option) have until December 1 to switch to the S (2 GB), M (4 GB), 5 GB single line or L (8 GB) Verizon plan. Importantly, those customers will not be allowed to have an unlimited plan — a recently introduced option that may have triggered the Verizon wireless customer cancellations.

At least some of the Verizon wireless customer cancellations are in areas where Verizon uses a network constructed by a Verizon LTE in Rural America (LRA) partner such as Wireless Partners, which operates a network in rural Maine. The LRA program lets rural wireless carriers build LTE networks using Verizon spectrum and Verizon uses those networks to support service in those areas.

Some of the customers who received service cancellation notices from Verizon are in areas where the network was built by Wireless Partners. According to a Wireless Partners spokesperson, the roaming charges that Verizon referenced are actually the charges that Verizon pays Wireless Partners or another LRA partner to use the network constructed using Verizon spectrum.

“Verizon has always represented that these networks are part of the Verizon network and marketed plans as such,” said the spokesperson in an email to Telecompetitor. “Their reference to LRA markets as ‘roaming networks’ was only recently used as part of the termination letters and zip code restrictions to their customers.”

Wireless Partners does not offer wireless service directly to end users – at least not in areas where it operates the LRA network. According to the spokesperson, Verizon has delayed the availability of that option. “If Verizon were to have consulted us first, we would have asked them to delay the terminations and zip-code restrictions until they provided the technical ability to allow us to support the terminated customers,” the spokesperson said.

Verizon’s decision to delay terminations, originally scheduled for an earlier date, until December 1 is a “step in the right direction,” the Wireless Partners spokesperson said. But he added that “important questions” remain unanswered. Among these:

  • Will Verizon lift the prohibition on new customers?
  • Will current customers that receive a future termination letter also have the right to purchase an alternative plan with Verizon?
  • What defines an “alternative provider”?
  • Are there ways current customers can prevent a future termination?
  • How do public safety professionals retain their service?
  • Why does Verizon continue to represent that these networks are part of the Verizon network on their coverage maps and when they market plans to prospective customers, but then claim they are roaming when they kick them off?

“Our hope is that a permanent solution can be reached that fulfills the original promise of the Verizon LRA program,” the Wireless Partners spokesperson said.

According to a report published on the “Stop the Cap” website, Verizon has sent the wireless service cancellation notice to customers in parts of Michigan, North Dakota and Montana as well as in the Wireless Partners service area.