Verizon Forces Users On To More Expensive Broadband Plans Just To Get $50 Covid Subsidy

from the not-helping dept

As part of a recent COVID bill, the government recently announced that folks struggling economically during COVID would be getting some temporary help. Under the EBB (Emergency broadband Benefit program), U.S. consumers can nab a $50 discount off their broadband bill, or $75 if you live in tribal areas. The program ends when its $3.2 billion in federal funding expires, or six months after the government has declared an end to the pandemic.

It’s a useful but temporary band aid, and doesn’t really do much to address the regional monopolization and lack of competition that makes US broadband so perennially mediocre in the first place. Nor does it address the fact the Trump FCC gutted its own consumer protection authority because a bunch of telecom monopolies asked them to, using completely bogus justifications.

Under the program, the money is first given to your broadband provider, which is then in charge of ensuring you get the discount. But given these companies’ track record of dodgy behavior, it obviously didn’t take long for US telecoms to misbehave. Enter Verizon, which is using the program as an opportunity to upsell customers to more expensive plans. Users contacting Verizon to sign up were told the program didn’t apply to their existing plans, and in order to get the discount they’d need to sign up for more expensive service. The Washington Post politely points out this is rather sleazy:

“Verizon elicited the most ire from readers. It requires customers to call a phone line to register for the EBB, rather than just signing up online. And when you do, Verizon told some customers the EBB can?t be used on ?old? data plans, so they?d have to switch. That might be allowed by the letter of the law but certainly isn?t the spirit of the program.”

Granted this is the same company that tried to upsell California firefighters to more costly plans when their data allotment ran out during an historic wildfire, so this shouldn’t be too surprising. In short, knowing the subsidy was temporary, Verizon nudged users to more expensive plans so they’d see a revenue boost when the plan ended. U.S. regulators at the FCC didn’t do a thing. Fortunately Verizon reversed course after the Post story began circulating online:

“On Wednesday, two days after I initially published this column, Verizon reversed course and said it would accept old plans. ?We heard from some customers that they prefer to stay on the legacy plans they have,? it wrote in a blog post. ?Moving forward, we will offer customers on legacy Fios plans (no longer in market today) the ability to enroll in EBB.”

A few other companies have taken to using misleading websites to trick users into thinking they’re enrolling in the government’s official program (the real website for which is here).

Needless to say the press shouldn’t always be the last line of defense against Americans getting ripped off, especially considering the increasingly tenuous financial situation the press finds itself in. You also wouldn’t need a COVID discount program in the first place if the U.S. hadn’t spent the last twenty years coddling regional monopolies, resulting in some of the most expensive prices in the developed world for broadband.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,
Companies: verizon

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Verizon Forces Users On To More Expensive Broadband Plans Just To Get $50 Covid Subsidy”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
8 Comments
That Anonymous Cowardsays:

‘Merika in a nutshell.
Y’all expect they will do the right thing then are shocked just shocked when they find a way to screw you.

Telco
Cable
Elected Officials
Corps

When y’all gonna learn the lessons from the past?
If there is a way they can screw you, even in the face of armageddon, for a couple cents more they will.

Somehow no one considered that unless it was explicitly spelled out, and even then half the time, they’ll screw you.

They screwed fire fighters in the middle of a disaster to get a few cents more, but thought oh they’ll do the right thing.
Also missing here is the lesson of we gave them a shit ton of bandwidth & cash to build out a network for first responders… but no one thought to put milestones in it… just keep paying them as they do nothing.

That One Guysays:

In short, knowing the subsidy was temporary, Verizon nudged users to more expensive plans so they’d see a revenue boost when the plan ended. U.S. regulators at the FCC didn’t do a thing. Fortunately Verizon reversed course after the Post story began circulating online:

Well yeah, they know who’s going to be signing their paychecks once they leave the FCC and I imagine it’s pretty well known that it’s generally not a smart move to badmouth your future boss in public.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Report this ad??|??Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
12:25 Australian Privacy Commissioner Says 7-Eleven Broke Privacy Laws By Scanning Customers' Faces At Survey Kiosks (6)
10:50 Missouri Governor Doubles Down On 'View Source' Hacking Claim; PAC Now Fundraising Over This Bizarrely Stupid Claim (45)
10:45 Daily Deal: The All-in-One Microsoft, Cybersecurity, And Python Exam Prep Training Bundle (0)
09:43 Want To Understand Why U.S. Broadband Sucks? Look At Frontier Communications In Wisconsin, West Virginia (8)
05:36 Massachusetts College Decides Criticizing The Chinese Government Is Hate Speech, Suspends Conservative Student Group (71)
19:57 Le Tigre Sues Barry Mann To Stop Copyright Threats Over Song, Lights Barry Mann On Fire As Well (21)
16:07 Court Says City Of Baltimore's 'Heckler's Veto' Of An Anti-Catholic Rally Violates The First Amendment (15)
13:37 Two Years Later, Judge Finally Realizes That A CDN Provider Is Not Liable For Copyright Infringement On Websites (21)
12:19 Chicago Court Gets Its Prior Restraint On, Tells Police Union Head To STFU About City's Vaccine Mandate (158)
10:55 Verizon 'Visible' Wireless Accounts Hacked, Exploited To Buy New iPhones (8)
10:50 Daily Deal: The MacOS 11 Course (0)
07:55 Suing Social Media Sites Over Acts Of Terrorism Continues To Be A Losing Bet, As 11th Circuit Dumps Another Flawed Lawsuit (11)
02:51 Trump Announces His Own Social Network, 'Truth Social,' Which Says It Can Kick Off Users For Any Reason (And Already Is) (100)
19:51 Facebook AI Moderation Continues To Suck Because Moderation At Scale Is Impossible (26)
16:12 Content Moderation Case Studies: Snapchat Disables GIPHY Integration After Racist 'Sticker' Is Discovered (2018) (11)
13:54 Arlo Makes Live Customer Service A Luxury Option (8)
12:05 Delta Proudly Announces Its Participation In The DHS's Expanded Biometric Collection Program (5)
11:03 LinkedIn (Mostly) Exits China, Citing Escalating Demands For Censorship (14)
10:57 Daily Deal: The Python, Git, And YAML Bundle (0)
09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
06:41 Report: Client-Side Scanning Is An Insecure Nightmare Just Waiting To Be Exploited By Governments (35)
20:38 MLB In Talks To Offer Streaming For All Teams' Home Games In-Market Even Without A Cable Subscription (10)
15:55 Appeals Court Says Couple's Lawsuit Over Bogus Vehicle Forfeiture Can Continue (15)
13:30 Techdirt Podcast Episode 301: Scarcity, Abundance & NFTs (0)
12:03 Hollywood Is Betting On Filtering Mandates, But Working Copyright Algorithms Simply Don't Exist (66)
10:45 Introducing The Techdirt Insider Discord (4)
10:40 Daily Deal: The Dynamic 2021 DevOps Training Bundle (0)
09:29 Criminalizing Teens' Google Searches Is Just How The UK's Anti-Cybercrime Programs Roll (19)
06:29 Canon Sued For Disabling Printer Scanners When Devices Run Out Of Ink (41)
20:51 Copyright Law Discriminating Against The Blind Finally Struck Down By Court In South Africa (7)
More arrow