Verizon, the internet service provider, is facing the heat currently, as it has been revealed that it is forcing some of its customers who are on the low income side, to switch to different (and sometimes more expensive) network plans, if they want to avail the Government’s new $50 broadband subsidy plans for low income families.
Misuse of the EBB?
Verizon has apparently been using the new subsidy plans, known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Programme, to ‘upsell’ (or rather, force) customers towards more costly plans.
How this works, you ask? Unlike most other ISPs (internet service providers), Verizon doesn’t allow its consumers to register for the subsidy online, and instead asks them to call up a number. However, once they do that, they are informed that the subsidy plans cannot be applied to their existing data plans, and so, they will have to upgrade to a different plan. The limit on plans is being implemented on both, home internet services and mobile data.
Where the Problem Lies
The programme has only temporarily been set up in view of the pandemic, and will be discontinued once the $3.2 billio fund set aside for it runs out. What this implies is that Verizon customer who do make the switch to a costlier plan to avail the subsidy, will soon have to bear the whole brunt of the more expensive plan, as subsidies will most likely be expiring soon.
To tackle this issue, the company very easily states that users will either have to continue with the new plan once the subsidy ends, or will have to terminate their services with Verizon. They will be informed about the options at the start, as well as at the end, of the subsidy subscription.
Who are Restricted
As for the services where Verizon is not making EEB applicable, one of the most prominent ones are the DSL home internet services. Customers will have to give up their old plan if they wish to access the subsidy, and this can be complicated in case of bundled broadband with TV and/or mobile services.
Similarly, for mobile data users, only Mix & Match Unlimited Phone Plans are eligible for getting the subsidy. The additional complication with this is that the plans are available only for postpaid services. So, prepaid customers cannot access the subsidy through Verizon at all, it seems.
Seems Unfair, But Isn’t Illegal
While users are complaining about how ISPs are often not accepting the EBB across all their plans, the programme, in fact, requires those ISPs who have taken up the EBB, to accept the programme only over a single plan.