Unlimited data customers 'freaked out' by new Verizon shared data plans

Still, Verizon says it remains pleased by general reaction

The new Verizon Wireless Share Everything plan unveiled Tuesday shocked and angered many longtime Verizon customers, including those with unlimited data plans. In response, the carrier was forced to tweet an advisory late yesterday that it isn't forcing existing customers onto the new plans.

Verizon revealed on its Web site that customers with unlimited data plans would have to purchase phones at full retail price when they upgrade after June 28 to stay locked into the unlimited plans. That could mean buying an iPhone for $649, well above the discounted Verizon price of $200.

Even though Verizon explained the unlimited data situation on its own Web site, the carrier also posted a tweet about 3 p.m. ET Tuesday that was linked to an explanation on Droid Life as well.

The Droid Life explanation was the same as reported on several sites late Tuesday, including the Associated Press, but much more dramatic. "Some users are freaking out a bit and wonder if they will be forced onto one of Verizon's new Share Everything plans," Droid Life said. "The answer is no."

Verizon's own explanation, tucked away in a "Tell Me More" section online was apparently overlooked by hundreds of concerned customers on various sites. Here's how Verizon explained what happens to unlimited data plan customers, and whether the new Share Everything plan requires a change:

" You're not required to move to Share Everything, but if you do, unlimited data will not be retained on your line. As a Verizon Wireless customer you have choices when you upgrade at discounted pricing. You can choose from a standalone data package starting at $30 for 2GB or a Share Everything Plan. If keeping unlimited is important to you, you can choose to upgrade and pay full retail price for the phone."

Reaction to the Share Everything concept varied by audience, with Verizon unlimited data customers responding the most angrily. But some financial analysts said the plan will help Verizon find needed revenue from data users to pay for multi-billion-dollar network improvements such as 4G LTE.

The general tone of comments on various sites was negative, with customers concerned that they'll pay much more. "One of the most colossal mistakes I have ever seen," wrote Bob Teague in a comment on yesterday's announcement that reflected other readers' views. "Sprint will get a LOT of business from this idiotic move."

Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Brenda Raney ignored the concerns voiced by customers and said, "We are very pleased with the response to our announcement as customers begin to understand how the new Share Everything Plans will save them money or provide them with more value for the same money they are paying today."

She said the plans were announced two weeks before taking effect on June 28 to give customers time to study how they apply to their personal situations. "We expect a lot of customers will choose the new Share Everything Plans on June 28."

Raney also confirmed Wednesday that new customers to Verizon Wireless "will only be offered the Share Everything Plans" while existing customers are not forced onto the new plans even if they upgrade to a new phone. She noted that a teenager added to an existing account would allow the existing plan to remain in use, even though the teenager would be new to Verizon.

AP and other sites reported there will be exceptions to Share Everything for some basic phone users, but Verizon did not respond to a request for more information.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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