“Nobody is required to pay an ETF,” Gerace said. “You always have the choice of buying a mobile phone at full price with no ETF. Or you can buy a device at a discount with a one- or two-year contract. If you stay with your contract, you don’t pay a fee at all.”
But what's the point, with a device Verizon classifies as a "smartphone?" They flat-out refuse to allow you to choose NOT to have a data plan, even if you have a phone with wi-fi capability and can't justify paying $30/mo. for a data plan you'll never use (I always have wi-fi available, unless I'm driving, in which case I'm not going on the internet with my phone).
I called and spoke in person to several Verizon reps, and they all told me that, even if I bought a device they classify as a smartphone independent of a contract, they will still automatically bill me for the $30/mo. data plan; they don't give you a choice.