Surprise! Verizon Wireless Bringing Back Unlimited Data Plans

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

Once upon a time, when smartphones were a brand new idea and 4G was still a glint in an engineer’s eye, Verizon offered its customers unlimited monthly data plans. For many years now, though, the company has been trying every trick it can to squeeze its remaining grandfathered unlimited-data customers off their plans. It looked for all the world as though Verizon had well and truly abandoned unlimited data to the era of Blackberry and “Gangnam Style”… until late last night when Verizon announced, surprise! Unlimited data is back.

Verizon Unlimited will start at $80 a month for unlimited data, voice calling, and texting, the company announced late on Sunday. For folks who need a shared plan, two-line plans will cost $70 per month per line ($140), three-line plans $54 per month per line ($162), and four-line plans, $45 per month per line ($180). All plans require the subscriber to enroll in paper-free billing and AutoPay debits.

The small print explaining how Verizon structures the cost.

The small print explaining how Verizon structures the cost.

Unlimited is replacing Verizon’s XL (16 GB for $90) and XXL (24GB for $110) plans.

The other three plan tiers remain as they were before: Small (2GB) at $35 per month plus fees; Medium (4GB) at $50 per month; and Large (8GB) at $70 per month, the same prices Verizon has been charging since July, 2016.

But wait, you may be thinking: How “unlimited” is unlimited, anyway? Because Verizon’s got a history of trying to throttle or boot the biggest data hogs off of its old unlimited plan, and it hasn’t always been transparent about who’s likely to get hit.

This time around, however, the company is very clear: “To ensure a quality experience for all customers,” Verizon writes, “after 22 GB of data usage on a line during any billing cycle we may prioritize [your] usage behind other customers.”

Verizon’s not saying that they will throttle or dump your service after you hit 22 GB in a month; just that they might, and you shouldn’t be surprised if they do.

Verizon is also departing from rival T-Mobile in a significant way: While T-Mo’s unlimited offering allows you to stream an unlimited amount of video content in a month, those streams are intentionally throttled by default to lower resolution and connection speed, and subscribers need to pay an extra $25 a month to access high-res versions. Verizon, however, is imposing no such limit.

Since the demise of the once-predictable two-year-contract style of billing, Verizon’s been remaking its offerings fairly often. Its latest full plan revamp came in July, when it raised the prices on all its data plans and announced a limited rollover data option.

At that time, the company also announced a quasi-unlimited data option: instead of having your access cut off or facing overage fees when you hit your limit, your connection would be throttled to 2G for the remainder of the billing cycle: Good enough to read your email, but not necessarily a whole lot more.

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