Bad News for 'Unlimited Data' Mobile Users

John Lister's picture

Mobile users on "unlimited" data plans got a double dose of bad news this week. Verizon will be kicking the heaviest data users off the plan, while AT&T's remaining unlimited users face a price hike.

Cellphone service providers have largely moved away from offering truly unlimited data plans over the past few years. That's partly because of a big increase in how much data mobile customers use, particularly as faster speeds made streaming video more practical.

While new unlimited deals are almost non-existent, most providers have continued to allow people to keep existing unlimited contracts under a system known as grandfathering. However, they've used a variety of tactics to deter people from keeping such plans.

Some Customers Face Slower Speeds

These have included blocking tethering (in which users share the mobile data from a phone or tablet with another device such as a computer) and significantly slowing down speeds for people who use a lot of data. The latter move has proven controversial with critics saying that even if it meets the letter of the law, it doesn't really meet the spirit of an unlimited plan.

Now Verizon says it will ban customers from keeping an unlimited plan if they use more than 200 GB a month. They'll have until February 16 to pick a new plan - which will have a monthly limit - or face being dropped as a customer. The highest amount of data available to customers affected by this will be 100GB a month, which will cost a whopping $450 a month. (Source:

AT&T Customers to Pay $5 More

How the move plays legally is open to debate. There's definitely a case that Verizon is no longer providing the "unlimited" data that these customers have paid for. However, there's also an argument that its obligation only applies month-by-month and that it's perfectly entitled to cancel a plan.

Meanwhile AT&T's "legacy unlimited data plan" will go up from $35 to $40 from March. That follows on from a $5 hike last February. The company does still offer unlimited plans to new customers, but only if they also subscribe to DirectTV cable, which is owned by AT&T. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Should carriers who offer "unlimited" plans be allowed to place any limit on use? If so, what's a reasonable amount of data each month? How long should companies be expected to continue offering a deal to "grandfathered" customers?

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Dennis Faas's picture

These prices are right in line with the Canadian government's pricing on heating and cooling. This past summer, the cost to cool my 12 year old home hit an eye-watering $489 a month - and the cost has gone up yet again! I can't wait to see what it will cost this year (and for the record, I leave it at 76F during the summer). Now if I could just obtain that $450 a month cell phone plan for 100+ GB of data, I'd be bent over so far from all this price gouging that I would be able to see my backside!

In all seriousness, I don't see how it's legal for a AT&T or Verizon to change a contract after it's been signed by the customer. The term "grandfathered contract" should mean no price hikes or changes to the plan - PERIOD!

Rescue's picture

Canadian government's pricing ......??????? .....or did you mean Ontario government pricing. As far as I know the Canadian Government has nothing to do with any Provinces hydro rates.

Boots66's picture

I guess I too wonder how these USA suppliers can manage to do this to their subscribers but it is simply numbers - The big suppliers can (sorry) screw the little guys or even a few of the big players and like what's his name coming in as the next president said - He could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Ave and it wouldn't hurt his popularity - Sadly true.
So too it is Sadly True that being these big name internet suppliers are primarily the only game in town - they can kick down some subscribers and never look back.
They have what you want or maybe I should say need now - then you have to pay them!
We are doing here in Canada - It's no different. Bell Canada is a good case and I am sure Telus isn't much different!
Arbitrarily after years and years of my having my first flip phone and the deal that went with it - I paid $0.35 for the first two minutes and the $0.05 for any minute thereafter - claimed to have had the right to suddenly crank me up to
$0.50 per minute for every minute - Period!
Having lived in Ontario which was for decades was 'Bell Country', I complained to their Customer Service and tried to go higher. I otld them that I have been a loyal Bell cuctomer for decades - I was pretty well told, tough _____, you have the right to go elsewhere. I was refused a connecction to go higher - I was told that I would get the same answer.
Like AT&T and Verizon, they didn't care if they stepped on my toes or kicked me out - it is strictly a money game and Bell, Telus, AT&T, Verizon, etc. - they don't care. What we need is a way that we can get our own access to the internet without having to go these big suppliers! All they want is your money!

matt_2058's picture

Unlimited means unlimited....period. Truth-in-advertising laws should have teeth. As for changing the contract, I believe rules should apply both ways. That means if you sign a 2-year agreement and they want to change it, they should pay an early termination the customer. And if you don't have a contract, oh well. Some have been floating for a commitment and the ease to switch carriers....and the cost is changing rates whenever the supplier decides.

I prefer the consistent cost rather than worrying about the high-use times and getting charged much more. I went over my limit one time while buying a house in another state when I retired. I used something like 1000 minutes over my limit. That $400 bill equaled 10 months at the regular price. I swore never again if an unlimited plan was reasonable. My Sprint unlimited is lower than 10gb with either other carrier. As for overages, ATT is $80 for 10gb and Verizon is $10/gb over the limit. No thank you.

c'est ma's picture

Where's Lily Tomlin when you need her?

Thankfully the incoming US czar has pledged to make corporate re-regulation his top priority.


f58tammy's picture

With the new 4K and soon to come 8K content being created a 2hr movie steamed by Amazon could be closer to 75GB or bigger in size. This kind of content will not only affect mobile service but cable providers will also reach their data caps with their plans that much sooner. At a $4.50 per GB price tag Verizon won't have to worry about how many subscribers they a going to be force to drop, because subscribers will chose a different carrier first. We have a few years for a new internet delivery system to be created, what shape that system will take time will only tell. If Verizon pricing system wins then plan on giving them your first born.