Verizon: Free WiFi Tethering Debate is Moot

This is an update to a posting in which we originally argued “Don’t force Verizon to allow free WiFi tethering”. But now, the whole issue is moot. Let’s explore…

Over the course of the past year, Verizon has used incentives to shift most users away from an unlimited data plan to one that allows unmetered domestic calls and text messages, but charges for data based on a subscription tier. For example, if a subscriber wishes to upgrade or add a subsidized phone onto a Family Share plan, they must relinquish their unlimited data plan and switch to a fixed data plan. Data is sold in buckets with each 2GB level adding about $10/mo to the overall monthly bill. To discourage ad hoc resellers from carving up and selling individual lines within a single, retail account, the cost per 2GB block actually increases for heavily used Family Share plans.

Along with the new billing model is a notable, yet under-publicized fact: Verizon no longer charges for—or restricts—the WiFi hot spot feature of smart phones.   continue below…

Verizon Data Plans

It took us awhile to contemplate, test and vet the new tiered data plans. But in the end, we like this change in both ethos and in practice. We like it a lot, because it recognizes an unwritten fact about carriers: They are first and foremost in the business of selling bandwidth — not features or service. The new scheme benefits almost everyone. Verizon no longer fears that a customer will walk into an auditorium and offer free wireless service to strangers. In fact, carriers no longer have an interest in restricting the pipe or charging for a hardware feature. If a user wishes to let data flow at a high rate or throughout the night, Verizon simply sells a larger data plan to that user.

Incidentally, after a year of using the new plan, we find that typical users are saving money. Moreover, Verizon still allows users to keep their unlimited plan, but without offering handset subsidies when adding phones or new lines.