It's a time-honored marketing tradition in the Internet access business to promise the customer anything, and then renege on any promises that turn out to be inconvenient by changing the service's terms and conditions. In fact, back in the dotcom boom days, it was just such a move by the then growing broadband giant @Home.com that led me originally to coin the term "sneakwrap." Thankfully, @Home is no longer with us, but Verizon seems to be taking an eerily similar approach with its wireless Internet service.
"About a year ago Verizon, began selling 'unlimited' high-speed wireless internet access for $60/month," a reader writes. "A lot of people signed up, including me. Apparently it has now gotten popular enough that the system became saturated, so last month they made a 'management business decision,' as one Verizon employee called it, to throw the top X percent of users overboard. They did that by creating, after the fact, an arbitrary, undocumented limit on the bandwidth you can use."
In September Verizon terminated the reader's wireless Internet access while he was traveling. When he returned home he discovered a letter that Verizon had sent him a week before they cut him off. The letter reader in part:
"As you know, the terms and conditions that govern your NationalAccess and/or BroadbandAccess account, which were provided to you at the time of service activation and which are posted on VerizonWireless.com, only permit Internet browsing, email and intranet access. All other activities, such as streaming and/or downloading movies and video, are expressly prohibited by the terms and conditions. A copy of the terms and conditions is enclosed."
"We recently reviewed your Verizon Wireless NationalAccess and/or Broadband Access account and found that your usage over the past 30 days exceeded 10 Gigabytes. Your usage was more than 40 times that of a typical user. 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. Based on these facts, your extraordinarily high levels of usage conclusively demonstrate a violation of the terms and conditions, and your account will be terminated on 9/20/2006."