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To Verizon, "Unlimited" Means 5 GB 743

Posted by kdawson
from the sue-for-false-advertising dept.
Jason writes "For years there have been stories about people getting their unlimited Verizon EVDO Wireless accounts terminated because of excessive data usage, but Verizon never explicitly said that there is a limit. Now if you dive into the terms of the Unlimited Data Service plan they have put a section in that specifically states that anything over 5GB of data usage in a one month period is considered prima facie evidence that you must be downloading movies, and you will be cut off."
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To Verizon, "Unlimited" Means 5 GB

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  • Linux (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:34AM (#18602139)
    and what if you're downloading linux distributions or other operating systems? ISO's for DVD's are consistently around 4gb. IF you download one dvd iso and one cd iso theres a good chance you will already be over the limit.
  • by BinarySkies (920189) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:37AM (#18602173) Homepage
    In a brief overview of the logs that are kept by a gateway at the local university, it shows that, on a daily basis, 32 members of my dormitory floor download at roughly 700KBps average during the day (that's total for all users). That's about 60,480,000 KB per day. Fifty NINE gigabytes per day. Divide that by 32. 1,845MB per person, per day. This is a reasonable number for college students. Let's assume that up to 75% of that is bittorrent, other peer to peer traffic, or what have you. That's STILL 461MB per person, per day, of assumed legitimate traffic. This is AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Web browsing, and other legal Internet services. 461MB * 30 days = 13,837MB or 13.5GB. I rest my case.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:43AM (#18602243)
    Reminds me of an ISP in Germany that offered unlimited broadband for cheap 7 bucks a month.

    They also gave me a brand new VoIP-enabled wireless router as a welcome present and didn't even charge for the first 3 months.

    After 5 months that guy calls: "I want to talk to you about your DSL plan [...] over the past months you've been downloading an average 181 GB a month [...] up to 243 GB [...] bla bla bla"

    He then offered me 100 bucks if I agree to quit the plan immediately and never come back.

    So:
    State-of-the-art VoIP-router: 0,00$
    5 months of downloading TV series: -14,00$
    Getting paid to leave: : +100,00$ (priceless)
    ---------------
    all of the above: +86,00$
  • by jovetoo (629494) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:49AM (#18602283) Journal
    Well, you might find that extremely limited (and it is) but it isn't so strange for me. In Belgium the major ISPs (Belgacom [belgacom.be], Telenet [telenet.be]) allow about 10Gb quota per month, with 5 euro per 5Gb for extra quota. This is expensive! Downloading a movie or even a linux distribution DVD costs you several euros on bandwidth alone.
    Minor ISPs use this a nice way into the market. (For example, mine [edpnet.be] allows me 20Gb default with a 0.25 euro cents per Gb over that upto 60Gb per month).
    Offcourse, all limits are openly advertised...
  • by Selivanow (82869) <selivanow@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @07:59AM (#18602393)
    The problem is that Verizon ADVERTISES the plan as unlimited. Although I can not say from experience, it would not surprise me if Verizon employees also advertised it as such or just not mention the fine print when signing you up. Remember, it's all about the money...they want you as a customer and if you manage to miss the fine print for 15 days, after which they have you as an income stream for 2 years (before which you can legally terminate your contract w/o penalty).
    The previous poster is correct. Verizon should not be allowed to advertise in such a misleading way.
  • by trenien (974611) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:02AM (#18602423)
    Well here in Japan I pay around $45 a month (modem rental included) for a 50M/s connection - mind you, if it was available where I live I'd get fiber at 100M/s.

    Limits? What limits? I remember last year when a friend came over for a while. With both our computers on the same connection, we often downloaded around 6Go a day...

  • by thomasj (36355) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:21AM (#18602645) Homepage
    I am still a bit baffled by the notion "Unlimited". When I dine at a highway restaurant, there is usually a stand with utensils and napkins where you just help yourself without any particular restrictions. I suppose that you can take an unlimited number of napkins, if unlimited means "a lot but reasonable" number.

    So in my book unlimited, is not unlimited! I wish vendors and customers would stop advertizing/expecting that. I think it is fair game to say "5 Gig/mo, additional traffic charged by rate". That is comparable when shopping for a connection. I am all for no-nonsense price structures.

    I personally wouldn't choose a connection with true unlimited/unmetered price structure. That means that I would share the total bandwith with DIVX-heads constantly downloading while I struggle to get SSH and VoIP operate at a latency like [insert favorite unfavorite place].

  • 5GB is tiny (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:21AM (#18602647)
    My European ISP (Telenet) offer 35GB a month in their fast service and even that I sometimes exceed. Not from p2p but from watching internet television.

    5GB unlimited?? Crap that's some kind of joke there. There is no way they can call 5GB unlimited, it's not even basic surfing level now that video blogs are the norm.

  • by underwhelm (53409) <underwhelm AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:21AM (#18602657) Homepage Journal
    Unlimited data and unlimited bandwidth aren't the same. Why doesn't Verizon just throttle abusers? They can still have their unlimited data as advertised, just at a rate of 2400bps.
  • Re:What the hell? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:35AM (#18602797) Homepage Journal

    I don't think it's "easier", it's "lazier".

    If I were Verizon, I'd be plugging the hell out of the 5G limit. I'd call it "Data 5G" or something similar, I'd describe the kinds of things you can do with 5G. I'd use the term "Effectively unlimited".

    And then after the sheer enormity of that number had sunk in, I'd create a new plan, costing $10 a month more, called "Data 20G".

    Verizon isn't merely being dishonest in calling it "Unlimited", they're also being very, very, stupid.

  • by miyako (632510) <miyako AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:45AM (#18602965) Homepage Journal
    The problem is that they aren't exactly cutting off the customers. They are cutting off their service, certainly, but they are still collecting their money. It would be different if they were to say, actually offer unlimited service, but if someone is using more than 5GB a month, then they use a clause in the contract to drop them as a customer. Instead they cutting off access at 5GB a month, but forcing the customers to keep paying during the 2 year contract period.
  • by rucs_hack (784150) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:45AM (#18602969)
    I think you are sort of right. However, lets look at a theoretical example:

    You have two customers, one is a light net user. They like to send photo's of their kids around on email to the rest of their family, spread all over the world, and use email as the main means of communicating between their extended family. They shop online, and like to hunt around for cheap flights/holidays. Perhaps they buy the odd small game on-line for the kids.

    The other customer is a gamer. They like to play on-line for many hours a day. They download multi gigabyte demos, and have a steam account that they use a lot. They spend a lot of time on Youtube, and use mail and msn constantly.

    The first customer can be given a moderatelly capped servive for, say thirty bucks a month (don't know the real US pricing). No problems will arise, they have what they need, you get their money.
    The second customer can pay fifty bucks and have a much higher limit, say 100Gb. Even the most intense gamer or movie purchaser is unlikely to exceed that. If they do, you charge in blocks of 10gb, and if it happens a lot, suggest they go to 150Gb, and pay more.

    By having a sliding scale of charges you avoid the unfairness of having light users paying the same, or close to the same, as heavy users.

    I know many heavy users point at the contracts they got that say unlimited, and wave fists about angrily, but, lets be honest here, few people who download hundreds of gigabytes a month are getting all legal stuff at present. To be frank, it isn't fair that I have to pay the same as someone else who rapes the tubes constantly.

    I have an 'unlimited' service, but my ISP looks at their customers with an eye to finding people who download much more then the others, and shifts them to shaped lines, or kicks them to a higher cost service. I can, and have, transferred tens of gigabytes of data around in recent months, I have to. However I am considerate and do it at night, and I cap my transfers so it doesn't max out my line. Although I definitely will show up with a high usage for a short while, on average I still behave myself, and have not been slapped.
  • Re:What the hell? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by afidel (530433) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @08:57AM (#18603141)
    This brings up a good point, when I installed Burning Crusades I did it as a download install. That was 2.2GB and the patch to get me up to where it would install on WoW was several hundred megs, and so were the post Burning Crusades patches. So in total I would have used half of my monthly data usage just installing a WoW update. This is why I like Wide Open West, I get 3 IP's and as far as I can tell there are no data caps and they don't do stupid things like throttle Bittorrent (Bittorrent is an ISP's friend because it can keep large amount of bulk data transfers within their network).
  • Just marketing... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xtracto (837672) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @09:10AM (#18603345) Journal
    Here in the UK the same thing happens. I am always wary of those services providing unlimited *anything*. That is why I am more comfortable with Google's 3GB or 4GB or whatever space they give against say, yahoo's unlimited, because ALWAYS (show me an advertisement that does not have it) the word UNLIMITED comes with the corresponding '*' attached to it, and in the case of the broadband services they use the "Fair use" policy to trivially limit the bandwidth.

    I have also read a lot of times people assuming that the people that download a lot is *pirating* stuff. But with the current rise of multimedia content (VoIP, VoD, online gaming, and the massive amount of flash crap in the web) it is very easy to go over 2GB a month...

  • Re:This is 2007. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by steronz (307926) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @09:31AM (#18603705) Homepage
    Nobody knows. There was an ask /. a while back with a copyright lawyer. Basically, the only thing that's been tested in court is making personal copies of casette tapes for home use purposes. There's no court precedent that buying a DVD gives you a license to own that content in any format. That's not to say it's definitely illegal, but the only legal answer a lawyer will give you right now to your "kid scratched my DVD up" problem is "go buy another one." Fair use rules in the home recording act have only been narrowly interpreted, and they'll remain that way as long as the MPAA doesn't sue individual downloaders.
  • I got this for a contract I was working on, and we regularly got dumps of "representative test data" against which we wrote our software integration tests. At least every couple of days, they would push out a 300MB file. Add to that the fact that I was building our automated software build infrastructure using a tool (maven) that downloads dependencies from central repositories (about 80MB for a full pull of all dependencies), and because I was creating the infrastructure I had to blow my system away to test cleanly several times a day.

    I bought it for work, and was presumed to have just been file sharing. I had unpleasant conversations with Verizon. Didn't even have an appeal process, nor an opportunity to demonstrate my situation, nor even the right to ask for a manager. I seriously thought about lodging a small claims court claim for damages, as their cutting me off cost me $1500 in demonstrable lost receipts (i'm paid by the hour) in that week while I tried to research an alternative.

    I finally went with Cingular on their unlimited data plan and they never had a problem with any limits. I also made sure we researched the policies and they said they didn't give even the slightest care how much I downloaded, or if I used it for "broadband services" like music/movie downloads, 'cause that's what Broadband usually means. Other than switching to a Mac and having a bit of irritation geting an ExpressCard device to support the service initially, I've had no problems with it.

    i.
  • Re:What the hell? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @09:50AM (#18604019) Homepage Journal
    Now think about how a company like Verizon is going to act when there's no Net Neutrality. How long you think it's going to take before you are so limited by their TOS that you can ONLY do email and web browsing, and only using their email and approved web sites?
  • Re:This is 2007. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:18AM (#18604505)
    YANALAY - You are not a lawyer, are you?

    Nope, but like many computer scientists, law was a required portion of my course.

    As far as I know, this question has not been definitively settled by any court rulings and there are no specific laws that say "thou shalt not copy a DVD to replace a damaged DVD." So it might be okay and it might not be okay. The MPAA and movie studios seem to think it is not okay. Expect a long, expensive fight that you *might* win if you'd like to assert the right to download DVDs as a means of obtaining a backup copy for a damaged copy.

    There is fair use, you cannot be punished for making a single copy. However the DMCA (what a wonderful cockup that was) made it so you are breaking the law if you circumvent copy protection stuff to obtain the copy to which you are entitled. No court would say you can download an illegal copy to make a 'backup'. The thing is, you are downloading from an unauthorised distribution portal, you wouldn't win the argument. If it is a torrent you would have been uploading too, so your council would likely advise you to avoid that argument.

    If you have not made a backup of a dvd/other media before it is damaged, then legally you're screwed. You have broken the copy you had a licence for, so you need to buy a new one. Getting a copy from elsewhere once yours is damaged may sound legal/fair, but it is most definitely not legal. Read the DMCA, its a crazy document (I had to, it's boring in places, but mostly an enlightening read)


    On an unrelated note, whoeover developed the idea of a media license applying only to the provided medium (i.e. "you have a license for the intellectual property named movie A, but only on the disc you bought") was, I like to think, failed physicist who was always fascinated by wave/particle duality and so they developed their own version called media/medium duality.


    Nope, the idea of money being for a single copy is as old as a jolly old thing. After all, buying a car does not give you the right to create new copies of that car, buying a book has not, for centuries, entitled you to make your own copies. Besides, when you buy a movie, you agree to their licence terms, and that clearly indicates that the licence is for the copy your purchased only.
  • Re:What the hell? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by advocate_one (662832) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:51AM (#18605117)
    that's me stuffed then... I took a peek at my Azureus stats... and over the last 250 or so days, I've downloaded 325 GB and uploaded 340 GB... and thats with a paltry 50KB/s upstream... That's a lot of Linux distros... mind you, there's an awful lot of public domain films and music that I download and seed as well.

    Mind you, I'm with an ISP that does not have one of these stupid "fair use" policies tied to their "unlimited" accounts... I have broadband via my cable account... and there's a fibre optic feed to a splitter thingy in the basement and I get a short coax run to my flat from that. That coax also carries my phone and TV signals.
  • Re:What the hell? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mgiuca (1040724) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:56AM (#18605207)
    Yeah, I totally agree.

    In Australia, no plans are truly unlimited (I think it's because of the high cost to connect us to the rest of the world). For example, I'm with Bigpond. We have the plan called ... surprise, "Unlimited". It's actually 10GB broadband, and after that, capped at about 14kbps or some ridiculous sub-modem speed, and that is truly unlimited.

    It isn't as draconian as Verizon (you don't get "terminated" or charged extra). It just isn't *really* unlimited because the Internet these days is pretty much unusable at 14kbps.
  • by CustomDesigned (250089) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:06AM (#18605467) Homepage Journal
    PROVIDED there is a meter to tell you how much you've used. My Dad's sattelite service does it right. The limit is spelled out, there is a meter to tell you how much you've used this month, and when you get close to the limit, it suggests increasing your limit by upgrading to the next plan level. Now THAT is smart business.

    I have Cox cable, and although they do a lot of other things right, this isn't one of them. The AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) states monthly upload and download bandwidth limits, but there is no way to check, apart from rolling your own iptables wrapper, how much you've used. You're left with a vague worry that maybe you might be getting close and should put off that big download ...

  • Re:What the hell? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rainman_bc (735332) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @12:23PM (#18607023)
    and only using their email and approved web sites?

    I recall back in the days of Aol,Prodigy and Compuserve where they had internal only sites. The internet wrecked that business model really fast.

    And once you filter the web you lose your common carrier status. Something that would legally sting ISP's when all of a sudden there's kiddie porn lawsuits popping up all over the place.

    I don't see that coming any time soon as long as there's competition in the ISP space.

  • Re:What the hell? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wperry1 (982543) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @12:35PM (#18607251) Homepage Journal
    I had a similar setup for a while but then I found out it was costing me ~$35/mo in electricity just to keep my PC running all the time. That's for a 400Watt system at $.12/KWh.

    Hosted GMail is free.

    -----
    WP
  • Only 5GB! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by backside (1084153) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @12:53PM (#18607561)
    I'm using Videotron "Extreme plan" (in Montreal) which is actually unlimited. My record for one month is 960GB and I didn't get any letters or phone calls. Bouyah ;)
  • by TheAxeMaster (762000) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @12:59PM (#18607621)
    Even if you could download your limit in one second and get capped at 14kbps the rest of the month, that's another ~4.5GB of bandwidth. That's all that is possible, so your total is only 14.5GB of bandwidth a month. There's really no such thing as "unlimited" bandwidth, there's always a transfer rate cap. They shouldn't be allowed to call it unlimited, because it never is.
  • Re:What the hell? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ByteofK (952750) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @01:52PM (#18608581) Journal
    Sometimes you haven't got much option but to "take it". I only got the refund from AT&T after mentioning "bait and switch" and a possible FCC report. Until that point they were quite happy to "do me the favour" of "waiving" the $99 breach of contract fee and insisted on the rest of the payment. Have you ever heard a radio commercial from the US? There's about 10 lines of big claims spoken in the normal voice, then at the end 5 seconds of "audio fine print" that would normally take 30-60 seconds to read off, but is digitally shrunk into something which sounds like words but there's no way the human ear can make all of it out. It's almost like the "fine print" is in txtese.
  • by pretygrrl (465212) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @02:16PM (#18609059) Journal
    I'm surprised no one is asking why it is that Verizon should want to limit data. I thought - and I may be wrong - that essentially, the total amount of 3g spectrum that is available (i.e. FCC licensed) for U.S commercial exploitation is finite. Meaning, Verizon can't grow the EVDO customer base indefinitely - they WILL hit their total licensed allocation.
    The only way to deal w. this, then, is to do exactly what they are doing. If spectrum is limited, and customers are growing, data must be limited. That's it.
    What they are "calling" it - who cares.
    I pull in 150GB's monthly on my RoadRunner NO PROBLEM
    So it makes sense to me why Wireless broadband gets capped.

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