Verizon "Unlimited Access" Plan Is Extremely Limited

If you’ve got a wireless PC card from Verizon and are on their “Unlimited Access” plan, you might be surprised to learn what isn’t permitted. Gaming for example, is not permitted. Neither is YouTube. Or “redirecting television signals for viewing on laptops.” In fact, your unlimited access is limited to 5GB a month, which you may only use for internet browsing email and “intranet access.” From Verizon’s TOS:

Unlimited Data Plans and Features (such as NationalAccess, BroadbandAccess, Push to Talk, and certain VZEmail services) may ONLY be used with wireless devices for the following purposes:
(i) Internet browsing;
(ii) email; and
(iii) intranet access (including access to corporate intranets, email, and individual productivity applications like customer relationship management, sales force, and field service automation). The Unlimited Data Plans and Features MAY NOT be used for any other purpose.

More TOS fun inside!

Verizon continues:

Examples of prohibited uses include, without limitation, the following: (i) continuous uploading, downloading or streaming of audio or video programming or games; (ii) server devices or host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing; or (iii) as a substitute or backup for private lines or dedicated data connections. This means, by way of example only, that checking email, surfing the Internet, downloading legally acquired songs, and/or visiting corporate intranets is permitted, but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services and/or redirecting television signals for viewing on laptops is prohibited. A person engaged in prohibited uses, continuously for one hour, could typically use 100 to 200 MBs, or, if engaged in prohibited uses for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, could use more than 5 GBs in a month.

For individual use only and not for resale. We reserve the right to protect our network from harm, which may impact legitimate data flows. We reserve the right to limit throughput or amount of data transferred, and to deny or terminate service, without notice, to anyone we believe is using an Unlimited Data Plan or Feature in any manner prohibited above or whose usage adversely impacts our network or service levels. Anyone using more than 5 GB per line in a given month is presumed to be using the service in a manner prohibited above, and we reserve the right to immediately terminate the service of any such person without notice. We also reserve the right to terminate service upon expiration of Customer Agreement term.

You heard them, use more than 5GB per month and they will “immediately terminate” your service “without notice.” You know, if you’re going to sell an “unlimited access” plan, shouldn’t it not limit your access?

We had toyed around with getting one of these cards, but what if we decide to watch a baseball game? Or use Skype? Or listen to NPR? For $79.99 a month we would likely want to do some of those things.—MEGHANN MARCO

Broadband Access [Verizon via Torrent Freak]


Edit Your Comment

  1. AppTechie says:

    There are advantages to having your company pay for this…you get a real unlimited access plan rather than an “unlimited” plan. :)

  2. TinaB says:

    Spellcheck the heading guys!

  3. rekoil says:

    This should be exhibit A in the Net Neutrality debate – there’s really nothing preventing Verizon, AT&T or Comcast from putting similar restrictions on your home cable/dsl line should they decide to. At least with wireless you can switch to Cingular. :(

  4. exkon says:

    They shouldn’t really advertise this plan as unlimited should they? I think I’m going to walk into a Verizon store, and ask them what limits they have, if they say nothing I’m going to call them out on it.

  5. virgilstar says:

    Ya Ya Ya. Old News.

    Been moaned about on all the PDA forums for years (TreoCentral etc.) Nobody really cares, and everyone uses their Treo to stream radio & TV anyway. Unless you’re using it 24/7 or doing bit-torrents all the time, its pretty hard to go over 5GB.

    Personally I don’t mind… if some kid downloading 20GB porn movies stops me from getting any work done because is slows down the network, I’m not gonna be sorry for the kid.

    And its not hidden in the T.O.S., its a pretty well known fact for anyone getting such a plan. If you don’t read the T.O.S. agreement, tough on you.

  6. datruesurfer says:

    After reading this i went to Sprint’s website, they have a similar offering.. same EV-DO speeds, cheaper. A chat window popped up and I was assured that there were no restrictions on their unlimited access plan:

    Agent: And you are looking to get mobile broadband service with us today?
    You: I’m just shopping around, need mobile broadband to connect to the office from my laptop
    Agent: Great! I can provide you with the promotion code which you can enter at the bottom of the shopping cart page before checkout, and it will save you an additional $50 off your 1st or 2nd monthly bill.
    Agent: May I send you back to the shopping cart so that you can put in a promo code?
    You: I just need to see the customer agreement
    Agent: That would be on the page after this, are there any questions I could help answer for you?
    You: can i see it without entering this information?
    Agent: You would not be able to advance without entering this info.
    You: i’m coming from verizon wireless, they terminated me for using too much bandwith
    You: i dont want the same thing to happen here
    Agent: Which plan did you select?
    Agent: Our unlimited plan is just that, unlimited.
    You: and there are absolutly no restrictions on use?
    Agent: No, and our service is faster and has more coverage.
    You: Great, thanks!
    Agent: Would you like to put in that promo code?
    You: yes, i just need to get approval from my boss. so a code i could enter later would be great
    Agent: Great, when you come back online any of our reps would be glad to assist you with that.
    You: great
    Agent: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
    You: Nope, Thank you for your help.
    Agent: Again, my name is xxxxx. Thank you for visiting Sprint today. We appreciate your interest and look forward to meeting your wireless needs in the future. Have a great day.
    Agent: Thank you, your chat transcript has been emailed to you.

    Anyone care to test Sprint’s patience?

  7. elizaD says:

    It’s funny you covered this today. I had been planning to ask you about it.

    My roommate just signed up for this plan last night. He’s 23 and has no credit history really to speak of. Verizon made him give them a $400 deposit for the privilege of paying $80/month for this service. Apparently, they need a deposit because he has no credit history. The deposit will supposedly be returned in a year. The CSR he talked to assured him that it would be returned with interest.

    This sounds absolutely absurd to me. Am I way off base or did my roommate just lend Verizon 400 bucks for no reason?

  8. JRuiz47 says:


    I had been considering getting Sprint’s service, but since I would only use it specifically for e-mail and such (filing stories and photos), I decided to just use PDANet with my Treo.

    The fiance of a friend of mine just started at Sprint, I can ask her to get me the TOS on the mobile broadband plan.

  9. zero_o says:

    My buddy who is a Verizon sales rep (he may not actually know everything that goes on behind the scenes) says that they monitor the 5GB limit but they do not really check on how you reach that limit, meaning you could browse the internet and reach the limit or download one dvd, they don’t check what you are doing just that threshold. This may not be fact he didn’t even know about the ultra restrictive TOS for verizon until I mentioned it a few weeks ago.

  10. kerry says:

    Helio also has the same language in their contract. Sprint offers an unlimited data connect service for your laptop, I wonder if they impose the same limits, seeing as how a computer can essentially be always connected to the internet and I wouldn’t really see that as a violation of the spirit of the service.

  11. royal72 says:

    @datruesurfer: nice job

  12. medalian1 says:

    I use and only burn my minutes to go online. Nights/Weekends = FREE.

  13. anexkahn says:

    We use the sprint – nextel service to stream video from a remote webcam and weather station. There was nothing in the ToS prohibiting this when we signed up about 8 months ago. In fact, the modem we ordered from Nextel even had specific instructions on how to port forward for streaming video devices like web cams, etc.

    We probably come close to about 5gb transfer a month, we used it pretty heavily the first few months and never recieved any notice of overages.

  14. tschepsit says:

    So that explains how they can offer an “unlimited” plan for $80/month. Honestly, as a customer I’m fine with that for wireless, especially CDMA-based wireless, since the technology is intereference-limited. EV-DO is supposed to minimize the amount of time you spend transmitting, and there is a dormant timer so that even if you’re “connected”, if you’re just reading a web page, you’re probably not actively using any radio resources most of the time. If you’re streaming a relatively fat feed, you’re using radio resources constantly AND hogging the backhaul bandwitdh from the base station to the base station controller. These are both expensive resources that can’t handle that kind of traffic for more than a few users at a time.

  15. Steve_Holt says:

    Is there a way to monitor how much data has been downloaded month to month, similar to how you check your cell phone minutes?

    You could just monitor it until it reached 4999 MB, and then yank the card out of the laptop.

    Can somebody try this for a few months and get back to us? I would, but I avoid using mobile broadband as a matter of principle.

  16. catnapped says:

    “Unlimited” has a different meaning for us mortals than the companies who are selling it. For us it would seem that they’re telling you that you can use unlimited bandwidth, but as far as they’re concerned, it would mean that you can connect an unlimited number of times per month (up to whatever bandwidth limit they set). Dialup ISPs tend to also use the same excuse…if they had to sell it straight-up (no fine print) as “xxGB/month” they figure they’d lose sign-ups.

  17. davetron5000 says:

    The Verizon connection application shows you your current session usage and also more stats to let you know how much you’ve used.

    I’ve been using it for about 3 months as my primary internet connection at work (so as to be able to use my Mac at work AND to avoid annoying web blocking software). I’m mostly surfing the net and checking email, though I’ve downloaded software to install, etc. I have not come remotely close to the limit. I think the only way you would hit it would be if you downloaded some movies or a lot of music.

    Since I do all that at home, their cap is not an issue. The sales rep at the store said they do not monitor anything but bandwidth. I specifically said I may have occasion to download music or to stream video or to connect to services on weird ports for work and they said it was no problem, as long as I kept under the monthly limit.

    I don’t recall the plan being advertised as unlimited, but I may have just ignored it, assuming it was, in fact, limited.

  18. roamer1 says:

    Cingular has similar language in their TOS with respect to what is and isn’t allowed, but does not have a hard cap like VZW does; I know a couple of people who regularly go above 5 GB/mo (all “permitted” traffic, mind you) with Cingular with no complaints. (I rarely go over 400 MB/mo.) T-Mobile has no such language at all, but it’s hard to do very much at EDGE speeds, or worse, GPRS speeds. ;) Helio having such language strikes me as incredibly odd given their use of the Sprint network, Sprint itself having such a loose TOS, and the fact they push themselves as a data-centric carrier. (Then again, Helio doesn’t sell “laptop” access.)

    Games don’t use much bandwidth (except for downloading updates) and shouldn’t be of any real concern. “redirecting television signals for viewing on laptops” seems to refer to the likes of Slingbox and *not* the likes of YouTube, which I really consider (given the short duration of most clips, their use of Flash video, etc.) to fall under the “browsing” category. My biggest problem with VZW’s TOS is that it doesn’t adequately address sysadmin type tools such as ssh; I personally consider such to fall under “intranet access”, but with VZW, who knows…

  19. coraspartan says:

    @elizaD: I think this may be normal for any new Verizon customer. One of my friends wanted to switch to Verizon from Sprint a few years ago, but they told her that since she was a new customer with them she would have to put down a $300 or $400 deposit–some large amount. They told her she would receive the money back after a year of on-time payment of her bill. This was for a regular cell phone plan–no data or anything.

    I was surprised when she told me this because when I first became a Verizon customer (approx. 10 yrs. ago) I didn’t have to put down a deposit. Admittedly, I started with a pay-as-you-go plan, but when I switched to a contract I never had to put down a deposit. I’m pretty sure my friend has good credit, so it was surprising to me that they required a deposit.

    So, to answer your question, this is not unheard-of with Verizon.

  20. LAGirl says:

    guess what else isn’t allowed? using a Kyocera KR1 router with the EVDO card so that all the computers in your office get internet access. but you’re only paying for 1 card per month. shhhhhh…don’t tell Verizon!

  21. pc-vip says:

    C’mon, guys . . .

    Yeah, the wording of their agreement gives the “the right” to terminate you at any time. But what tehy’re really trying to do is stop you from running a server using your PDA or wireless card as a pass-through. Kinda like your ISP limiting your bandwidth.

    I have this plan. I use it for all kinds of things, all over the US and Europe (where believe me, it saves me BIG bucks). I use it to Skype, even, meaning I get free phone calls through my cell carrier, without using their minutes. And I’ve asked quite a few people at VZW about the limits and all but one (and he seemed pretty darned uninformed across the board) told me the same thing: they aren’t watching what you do w/ the plan. Just the volume of data you push.

    Oh and by the way (shameless plug alert): has gone live

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    Oh: and seriously . . . we’re really all about people not getting ripped off any longer, too.

    Jeff Yablon


  22. chasingkismet says:

    elizaD — about two years ago I signed a contract with Verizon, and I had to put down $100 deposit for my limited credit history. A year later Verizon sent me a check for $100 plus the interest. So your friend should definitely get a check from Verizon in a year.

  23. raindog says:

    Stop apologizing for them, people. If they advertise the plan as unlimited, even if it’s “Unlimited*”, they need to be made to stop. (If it’s “unlimited” with no star, they need a class action suit brought against them.)

    It’s like a food company advertising something as “sugar free” when there’s half a pound of sugar in it. It doesn’t matter if they say “Sugar free*” “*Except for that half a pound we dump in.” It’s still misleading advertising and is unethical if not illegal.

    That said, I haven’t seen the Verizon ads in question.

  24. Threve says:

    Encountered this exact problem with Verizon a few months ago. I had been using the service for around 4 months when suddenly I got a “your service has been terminated…” letter. Spent the next week trying to figure out why (the letter said I went over 5GB, but none of my monthly statements were even close). In the end I finally spoke to a rep who informed me that “Verizon simply wants the ability to terminate your service when they want, for any reason they want”. So the TOS is worded to allow just that. I was accused of downloading and streaming (which believe it or not, I had not done), yet no one could prove it. To make an even longer story shorter, I switched to Sprint’s service and it is indeed faster, more reliable, better coverage, AND the Sprint rep gave me a $20 per month discount (which you would normally only get if you have a voice plan with Sprint) simply because Verizon sucks.

  25. lukemason says:

    ONLY 5GB!!!

    For 10 min of access to, yes VERIZONWIRELESS.COM, I clocked 12.2mb of data transfer thats 732mb per hour. (I used Verizon’s VZ access manger to get these numbers)
    so if the monthly allotment is 5gb, thats 5000mb,
    you need only to spend 69.4 hours browsing, thats only 2.24 hours per day.

    Congratulations, in only 69.4 hours you have exeeded your monthly access!

    I think this shows that you can easily exceed a 5gb limit in a month.