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Verizon and AT&T’s data caps have made LTE a waste of money

Published Sep 27th, 2013 1:45PM EDT
Verizon AT&T LTE Data Cap Criticism

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I remember when I used to be excited about LTE. It was going to be a super-fast wireless technology that would deliver broadband speeds over the air and make the Internet faster for millions of people who are stuck on low-end connections. How naive I was! In all my enthusiasm for LTE I’d forgotten that America’s largest two wireless carriers would inevitably find a way to make their LTE services borderline useless.

Ever since I upgraded to one of Verizon’s delightful capped mobile data plans, I’ve gone out of my way to use Wi-Fi connectivity on my HTC One as much as possible. This in itself isn’t a tragedy except that it makes little sense for me to keep paying $20 extra per month for 2GB of LTE data that I’m trying like crazy not to use. Because of this I’ve made the decision to actually downgrade my monthly data plan to just 500MB and only use LTE in the case of emergencies like when I’m lost and need to open up Google Maps while in the car. 500MB may not be much data but if I’m going to use LTE as little as possible then I’m going to give Verizon as little of my money as possible.

This is pretty incredible when you think about it: Verizon has instituted a system where I actually have incentives to not use its network. LTE was supposed to lead to a golden age of mobile broadband where people could quickly watch videos on their smartphones and tablets. With Verizon’s LTE data caps, I’m much more worried about webpages with autoplay videos inadvertently hogging up my precious monthly data.

What makes this state of affairs even more disheartening is that Verizon is all but bragging about the restrictions it places on its users and on the high prices it charges. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam earlier this week said that he would never consider bringing back unlimited data plans while also crowing that he and his carrier “have and never will lead on price.” Now there’s an amazing sales pitch: “We’ll charge you more for the plans you don’t want!”

I first switched over to Verizon from T-Mobile many years ago because Verizon had an outstanding voice and data network and T-Mobile, well, didn’t. I suspect that many, many more customers have done the same since Verizon’s subscriber ranks have just kept on growing as the years have gone by while Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s have for the most part declined.

But Verizon and AT&T’s awful data cap policies really feel like a tipping point for me. The big two wireless carriers have long gotten away with such practices because their competition’s offerings have been so poor. But now that SoftBank is poised to invest big bucks in upgrading Sprint’s network and now that T-Mobile finally has the spectrum it needs to build a nationwide LTE network, I think Verizon and AT&T could soon regret taking their customers for granted.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.