I very much agree with other posters that "unlimited" is a very misleading term. If the service runs at 200Kbps, then that's something like 65GB/month, which is not an infinite amount of data. If Verizon sold two "unlimited" plans, one that could be throttled and one that couldn't be, it would be very clear to the customer why the 16TB/month (50Mbps * 1 month) plan was a lot more expensive than the 65GB/month (200Kbps * 1 month) plan. But they hide it all in the fine print, so anyone that doesn't carefully read the fine print and extensively test the service doesn't actually know what they're getting. This is unfortunate. I don't think it's a net neutrality issue (it's not like they were throttled because the traffic was going to Amazon instead of Google), but rather a truth-in-advertising issue.
I miss those consumer protections a lot since I moved to the US. It sometimes may seem to get a little bit silly (I'm not totally sure, but I think you are not even allowed to say e.g. "the best pizza" in advertising, because how would you prove that claim), but I easily prefer a little silliness over the deliberately misleading claims here.
If this is common practice, then these companies are all a bunch of liars.
As opposed to other places in the world, truth in advertising is dead in the US - and also Australia, for that matter.
Try using the word "free" in Norway if you're not prepared to offer that for free with zero strings attached, and see how far you get before feeling the weight of the law. (And "zero strings" here means exactly that in the most literal sense).
what? Australia has some of the strongest consumer protection laws - sometimes I actually feel bad for the corporations...
There is a whole strict regulatory system for determining facts vs mere puff.
Edit: actual example,
They are not free. You have to spend $30 to get one. The word _free_ is perverted.
This would be illegal in Norway:
> ”Gratis”, ”vederlagsfritt”, ”uten betaling” og lignende uttrykk må ikke benyttes i markedsføringen dersom gratisytelsen er betinget av kjøp av andre ytelser for å oppnå gratisytelsen.
translates more or less directly (using Google translate and then adjusting slightly based on my 15+ years of experience with talking and writing mostly Norwegian) to
5.3 "Free" Claims
"Free", "Free of charge," "Unpaid," and similar terms, may not be used in the promotion if the free good or service is conditional upon purchase of other benefits to achieve the free good or service.
As an Australian, I have no idea how lax or strong the consumer protection laws are. I know they exist, and they are enforced by an identifiable, respected federal agency.
I have no idea whether the laws are good, or whether that
agency does a good job in general. In fact, I have very little notion of what I should expect from good laws and enforcement in this field.
That sounds amazing. We should probably copy that entirely, for the US.
Some weeks ago there was this article on the HN frontpage (even though it wasn't about tech at all) about a scam that pretended to offer chance to win a car, except it was really a trick to pull people into some crazy completely unrelated money-sucking scheme, and the kicker was that nobody ever won a car, not even the car that was literally on display as being the prize!
And this is apparently legal in the US.
Similarly about the "House of God / 50 dollars or more" TV preachers that promise miracles if you send them money. Taking advantage, mainly of the vulnerable, who believe that, or even just believe they're supporting a proper Christian Church. But it's really just some person telling them to send them money. How the hell is this not regulated?
Is anyone surprised that if you don't have regulations to stop people from scamming others, you can't rely on a vague sense of common decency, because there are enough of them that will exploit it unless you tie their hands and speak out as a society that that sort of shit is simply not acceptable.
Well, hopefully not in the _most_ literal sense, because Verizon can probably manage to provide you internet service with no actual balls of yarn tied to the router... :)
Then by definition nothing is unlimited... The whole universe has limits... there's a finite amount of atoms... even saying you have unlimited access to my comment would be lying because one day, you'll die, or the storage will die, or this comment will be forgotten...
I think if you sell an unlimited 200 Kbps connection, it's implied that it's a 65 GB one. Putting a limit on the bandwidth would be to offer LESS than what the other limits imply.
Saying unlimited 100 mbit/s but throttling it at 1 mbit/s sure, that is clearly false advertising because you actually get unlimited 1 mbit/s.
Pretty clear statement - unlimited data is either unlimited or not. Throttling customers because they reached the limit on what you're selling as "unlimited" is deceptive at best, and actually harmful at worst. We're seeing the latter here, and still people want to correct the customer on what unlimited means.
Simply put: this marketing tactic is a Bad Thing because it sells people something they didn't want with a sticker that said it was what they wanted.
I would heavily prefer a country that actually had rule of law and didn't let companies just lie to consumers without consequence. The more this sort of thing goes on in America, the more people will disregard any semblance of law
A (fairly mediocre) hamburger place back where I grew up heavily advertised themselves as "The award winning best burgers in town", reference (in tiny print) a test the local newspaper had done over 10 years ago. So basically it shouldn't be too hard to claim that your X is 'the best' according to some measure without having to outright lie.
What. Do you still have warranty on that language, because it appears to be broken.
- business must make a profit
- why are you being a socialist
- think of joe sixpack
- the USA is 'different'
arguments as to why this is not the case, and debate tends to die.
although I guess I'm saying 'the usa is different' in a different way.. so there's that
I say humanism because protecting (vulnerable) people from scams in advertising has nothing to do with socialism, and everything to do with people just being excellent to each other and helping one another.
Forces of capitalism have no compassion. It's quite a mechanical system, you can't expect that to produce a system with a consistent and sufficient amount of decency, without it tearing off a limb every once in a while.
I've called customer service departments at about a dozen or so US based companies in the last couple of years, and haven't found this stereotype to be fair at all. Most of them were from the US as far as I could tell. Even when they were not, communication was not an issue.
or even only 30-40% of it:
My German O2 plan is called a "flatrate" and is throttled after 300GB according to their "fair use" policy. Both terms are verbatim what O2 calls it, Germans have a lot of anglicisms. They claim it has "bis zu" 50Mbit/s ("bis zu" meaning "up to").
So sadly no, in Germany Ginger Beer is called Ginger Brew, but DSL contracts are still scammy.
Even according to English Wikipedia:
"A flat fee, also referred to as a flat rate or a linear rate, refers to a pricing structure that charges a single fixed fee for a service, regardless of usage."
Emphasis mine. I'd understand this as there being a service (e.g. high-speed DSL) which you pay a fixed fee for, independent of how much you use it. That does also mean that if you use it more they don't shut it off, because otherwise you're not getting the service independent of usage.
In the 90s, when the Internet started to come into popularity, me and friends were desperately trying to get a connection that didn't cost money per time unit.
For the longest time, with no free local calls like the US had, that simply did not exist, at least via dialup. One option was a "Standleitung", which was almost literally a permanent landline between you and your provider, same signaling and all. Only small providers would usually be talked into it, but then you had to pay a (at the time) huge monthly fee to the Post/Telekom because the line took resources away permanently. Some few people were lucky enough to be able to establish radio channels with their provider (this was long before WiFi was a thing). At one of my first jobs, I got ISDN "callback" as a benefit, which meant that I could call the router, hang up immediately, the router would call back and establish the connection, company would pay!
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the first few flatrates appeared. Stay online as long as you want, download as much as you want (at speeds that were still measured in kilobytes/second, but completely adequate for the time). It was definitely Unlimited.
Finally, I remember the “Alkohol-Flatrates” that came up in clubs a few years later (and were, unsurprisingly, soon outlawed). Their point was that you could get a theoretically unlimited amount of drinks for your cover charge of typically 15DM or so. In practice that’s a stupid idea of course. I tried it once at the behest of a coworker: The drinks were atrocious, the floor was covered in a thick grime of “free drinks” and the crowd consisted of the type of people who would be attracted to an “alcohol flatrate” in the first place.
Contextually from whence we came (10cents a text, pay per megabyte), data being unlimited means no overages.
If bandwidth is to be throttled after a specific amount of data has been used (rather than, say, in response to current overall network load), the data is clearly being metered in order to detect when to start throttling.
It's so pervasive that I automatically ignore any mention of "unlimited" regarding bandwidth or total volume of data. These "unlimited" plans are more like "first X amount of data per month at Y speed; Z speed thereafter", but of course that's not catchy enough for marketing...
Interestingly I would be surprised if that stemmed from onerous marketing regulations as suggested above.
> I think you are not even allowed to say e.g. "the best pizza" in advertising
That is silly. Ads are not peer-reviewed science article. Everybody knows that. Looks like a bunch of governmental busybodies in search of a "problem" they could "fix".
Saying "The Best Pizza" might be allowed if the viewer understand that it's just puffery and it's not really making a claim. It's a fine line though but I think best pizza would be allowed under the law.
They rely on people like me taking the most expensive contract and knowing that nobody will ever max it out (rather running at sub percent levels of the pkan)
I have a junk degree and currently work as a dev after teaching myself programming.
Edit: Verizon should have immediately restored full service, given the fire emergency. And waited to settle account status. What's the point of putting lives and property damage at risk over $50 or whatever?
Edit: And that does seem to be Verizon policy. It's apparently just that they screwed up here. From another article:
> Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations. We have done that many times, including for emergency personnel responding to these tragic fires. In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us. This was a customer support mistake. We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward.
I have a contract to rent you X fire trucks. I have other contracts with other people to rent Y fire trucks to them. There's a fire and X fire trucks are being used to save people in X+1 fires. That last person dies because you didn't rent X+1 fire trucks. I could have given you an additional fire truck in the allotment of Y. Morally you can make the case that I ought to give you one more fire truck but how have you made the case that legally I should give you a non contracted fire truck?
Destroying the truck renter's property rights by the state forcing me to give you my property (that +1 fire truck) but in the long run it results in under allocation of goods and theft-premium being added as a cost.
At least in my country, legally speaking there is a case that you should send one of Y's trucks to X, as there is a risk of life.
Various towns requisition each others trucks, operators, and more during the bushfire season. And that requisition may just be a phone call with someone yelling that they need more help at the other end. And that's legally enforceable.
Maybe in the little thought experiment you're trying to conduct it does, but not in the real world. There are plenty of other variables at play.
X knows that if they need trucks and Ys are in use, then people die and they'll get blamed. They know that local trucks will respond faster so fewer people die.
In one off emergency situations in the real world, people actually help each other. We're not just a bunch of ideal game theory pieces in some amaeteur economist thought experiment.
SLAs should contain details that don't fit in your marketing. They should not say something completely different from what your marketing says.
Likewise, if you can deliver 50 mbps most of the time for the workloads your users will typically see (sucking down a 5MB page then idling for 30-60 seconds), that's the most honest way to market it.
It's actually very useful in that it correctly tells you what speed you can expect.
If "50 Mbps" is the right way to describe a 200 kbps plan that can do 50 Mbps in bursts, what's the right name for a plan that can do 50 Mbps all the time? Really honest to god 50 Mbps?
Apple does specify two clock speeds when configuring Macs for instance.
Battery life is not a good example, since that's normal and expected to vary under load.
It's already been explained to you that the "unlimited" plan at issue was clearly not best-effort after the limit was reached. The throttling that Verizon applied was around-the-clock and resulted in the fire department's device getting a tiny fraction of the speed that personal devices at the same location were getting. The throttling was not happening as a result of congestion, it was an artificial limit on a plan advertised as "unlimited". All theses arguments you're making about best-effort service are irrelevant distractions. A plan that stops being best-effort part way through the billing period cannot be honestly sold as "best-effort" any more than it can be honestly sold as "unlimited".
Short bursts are no longer the normal way for consumers to use bandwidth. Most bandwidth is now used for streaming media. In 2015, it was 70% of American bandwidth at peak hours. It has probably only gone up since then.
> If they actively apply throttling after a certain amount of data, that is not making a good faith effort to deliver what you promised me
I agree that would be misleading, but who does that? I've never seen a plan that's advertised as e.g. 50 mbps unlimited data that throttles after a certain usage.
> Short bursts are no longer the normal way for consumers to use bandwidth. Most bandwidth is now used for streaming media. In 2015, it was 70% of American bandwidth at peak hours
Measuring it by a proportion of total bandwidth is misleading, because sustained loads will obviously use more bandwidth in the aggregate than bursty loads. But users likely still spend much more wall-clock time doing bursty activities (web browsing, refreshing facebook, twitter, downloading apps tore apps) than streaming. Given that a web page these days is in the 5MB+ range, it still makes sense to optimize networks primarily for bursts.
 It's like if you analyzed laptop battery life by looking at the total kilowatt hours used by different tasks. That would overstate the importance of things like gaming, which use more battery life in the aggregate but which users spend less wall-clock time doing than word processing or web browsing.
Please be reasonable and apply some common sense. Colloquial statements are usually not intended to be taken to the most extreme level of literalness possible. It is commonly understood that any form of internet service may occasionally experience brief outages or degradation in service because of circumstances outside of the provider's control. It is not commonly understood that any form of internet service will necessarily involve the provider voluntarily causing that degradation in service.
> I agree that would be misleading, but who does that? I've never seen a plan that's advertised as e.g. 50 mbps unlimited data that throttles after a certain usage.
Verizon has multiple plans with "Unlimited" (some of them with the ridiculous names of "Above Unlimited" and "Beyond Unlimited") in the name that actually have limits once you look at the details. I'm not saying that type of plan is wrong to have, just don't name it something that is a bald-faced lie.
The problem is that there is a well-established distinction between a dedicated circuit, which offers a certain speed "all the time," and best-effort service, which offers "up to 50 mbps" subject to network congestion. To anyone familiar with telecom, it sounded like you were saying that only e.g. 50-mbps dedicated circuits should be advertised as "50 mbps."
I agree with you that if you advertise a 50 mbps best effort service, and also guarantee unlimited data usage, it would be wrong to throttle it after a certain amount of data usage. But to my knowledge, nobody does the combination of both.
> Verizon has multiple plans with "Unlimited" (some of them with the ridiculous names of "Above Unlimited" and "Beyond Unlimited")
Verizon doesn't have any consumer plans that guarantee both an amount of data usage and a specific speed. The plans that specify a certain speed (e.g. FiOS) do not throttle after any amount of data usage. The plans that specify unlimited data usage with throttling after a certain point do not guarantee any particular level of speed. You're taking "unlimited" to mean "without limits in both data rate and data usage," which is one possible, but not the only possible interpretation of the phrase.
Even dedicated circuits do not guarantee a certain speed 100% of the time. They guarantee a certain speed 99.x% of the time specified by an SLA.
> Verizon doesn't have any consumer plans that guarantee both an amount of data usage and a specific speed.
They do. They have multiple plans that specifically say "Unlimited 4G LTE Data". You might argue that 4G LTE is not technically a measure of speed, but it is certainly understood that way by consumers, so it should not be used in marketing if it is not intended as a measure of speed.
Even if it's hard to exactly quantify a priori what "4G LTE" speed is given that it varies with circumstances, it's pretty easy to show when Verizon isn't trying to deliver as much data as they have capacity for. The fire department did that, by comparing speed on their throttled device side by side with a personal device on the same network.
It is useful to the consumer. It's not useful if you want to sell it.
I have no problem with capped data plans, but you have to advertise them honestly.
You'd expect the average person to see this information and extrapolate that they are ingesting 0g of sugar whether they eat 1 or 100 Tic Tacs.
> Tic Tac® mints do contain sugar as listed in the ingredient statement. However, since the amount of sugar per serving (1 mint) is less than 0.5 grams, FDA labeling requirements permit the Nutrition Facts to state that there are 0 grams of sugar per serving.
Serving size: 1/4 second spray
Servings per container: about 565
When you can make the serving size small enough, you can say there's no calories!
They actually fixed this with the new labeling requirements the FDA enacted a few years ago, so at least that's one step towards transparency.
Selling plans with consumer-oriented limitations to companies sounds inane to me, it's just headache waiting to happen, or a shot in a leg like we see here.
So it was a government plan, not a consumer one. Judging by their response, it sounds like the Verizon rep that sold them the plan told them it was unlimited, and the fire department didn't read the fine print closely enough.
Or, even if the provider decides to offer variable-speed plans, which means the speed isn't guaranteed, why would you, as a company, buy such a plan? Tomorrow you need the bandwidth, and you discover you have 1 mbps instead of 50 mbps, because the total bandwidth is shared with some other folks. What, you sit back twiddling thumbs and wait for everyone else to go to lunch?
Even if such a plan is intended for one business person, to check email and look at stock charts, it makes more sense for it to always have minimum guaranteed bandwidth, e.g. 500 kbps, instead of random speed with a limitation on the transmitted total. The entire reason for the 'transmitted total' metric in the first place is to prevent people from downloading movies 24/7, while allowing for the bandwidth to swing wildly—which is a use case of a home consumer.
So IMO, by offering this plan the provider laid both themselves and the client a mine, through which they would have to poker-face sooner or later, with no benefit that I see. And now this all blew in their face on top of that.
Exactly! It almost sounds like someone designed and built the vehicle and forgot that it needs internet connection. So when the department got it, they popped down to the local tech store and purchased a USB 4G module and just slapped it on.
Well, it's not very meaningful without attaching it to a clear quantity, is it? Should be illegal.
Creation Date: 2000-03-23T16:45:52Z
No, it should be assumed that they get "fast enough" up to 50Mbps... which they did get (and didn't complain about) up to the throttle (which they did complain about).
Sure, the data threshold and throttling are in the terms, but even Verizon admitted they made a mistake explaining the meaning of the terms to the fire department (easy to misread anyways for the average consumer, and throttling is not something the carriers advertise).
The net neutrality issue is the fact that Verizon wasn't throttling due to overall network congestion (which was an exception to the previous regulation), but just because the fire department hit the data cap... under net nuetrality this would not be allowed, though the risk is that not having throttling means a threshold data shut-off.
Verizon has even been punished for false "unlimited" advertising in the past, but they clearly didn't learn their lesson. https://consumerist.com/2007/10/23/verizon-to-pay-1-million-...
Sorry, that justification doesn't work because their throttling drastically limits the total data per month too. Verizon advertises "Unlimited 4G LTE" and also that their 4G LTE has typical speeds of 5-12 Mbps with 50 Mbps bursts. At the alleged throttled rate of 30 kbps, you couldn't even download 10 GB in a whole month of 24/7 usage, when you could normally expect to download that much in less than 5 hours if you weren't throttled, or as little as 30 minutes at the highest advertised speed.
I see what you're trying to say, let me say it more clearly for you. "Since Verizon only throttles during congestion it's not a per subscriber limit, it's just network management". First of all, I don't believe for a second that they only throttle during congestion and I also don't believe that the amount of congestion they experienced justifies throttling all the way to 30 kbps. They make the throttling that severe to force people to upgrade plans, not because it's necessary. But all of that is moot because they are still using per-subscriber usage to make their throttling decisions. When two people with the same plan on the same tower are throttled differently based on their usage, that's a de facto usage limit and calling it unlimited is false advertising.
I'm not saying they shouldn't be able to throttle people based on usage. They can do it all day long as long as they don't call it unlimited.
You actually mean data rate.
All this arguing about the definition of one word whilst another is being casually misused is rather ironic.
1. LTE bandwidth: limited by regulating authorities and the size of bandwidth chunks for which telcos bid
2. LTE data rate: limited by (1) , physics and our current technology
3. LTE data usage: limited by (2) and any contractual terms
40 MHz only with CA I think.
I think the majority would expect to get the advertised speed unconditionally (in particular: not conditioned on using it a lot). And I suspect that most of the people expecting the opposite would be doing so because they heard about someone else being burned by the wording, as opposed to figuring that out for themselves tabula rasa.
Edit: Apparently multiple people are misreading and assuming I'm trying to flatter myself here. "A reasonable person" is a pre-defined legal term that I have little choice but to use verbatim here. It's essentially a proper noun, but without capitalization. Specifically, I'm _not_ describing my own rationality when I say "a reasonable person" would agree with me. What I'm saying is that I think the legal "a reasonable person" would reason the same way I just reasoned. If you still don't get what I'm saying: had the legal term instead been "a stupid monkey", then my sentence would have read "a stupid monkey would agree with me".
I'm not sure you read the article. The whole point of a "reasonable person" is that it represents an "average person".
> this person is seen to represent a composite of a relevant community's judgement as to how a typical member of said community should behave in situations that might pose a threat of harm (through action or inaction) to the public
This is why we have a jury of our peers picked at random. The randomness is not random.
That sort of personal swipe will get you banned here. If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and not do this kind of thing on HN, we'd appreciate it.
Er, pardon? This isn't my high horse. This is literally your own article's text, which you yourself apparently didn't read:
> As a legal fiction, the "reasonable person" is not an average person or a typical person, leading to great difficulties in applying the concept in some criminal cases, especially in regards to the partial defence of provocation.
Please don't use uppercase for emphasis. If you want to emphasize a word or phrase, put asterisks* around it and it will get italicized.*
I also use _underscores_ sometimes. Does just as good a job at emphasising, but without seeming so shouty.
Let us stop pretending that the lawyers who approve corporate literature are innocent and just misinterpreted the meaning of the word "unlimited".
These malpractices need to stop. Precise language needs to be made legally necessary for such literature. This is no "Kublai Khan" where the writer is allowed liberties normally unavailable.
The first plan has unlimited data with (after you hover to explicitly find out what that (i) is about) throttling in times of congestion. No mention of a data limit.
The other two both say the same thing, but that it only occurs after a data utilisation threshold has been met.
As the first plan says: "For people who want unlimited, and no worries" seems pretty clear to me that I should be getting unlimited, and not needing to worry about anything else.
WTF does that mean?
Despite the overarching issues here, what culpability is there when these public safety services who build reliance on these private companies don't do due diligence on what they use? We can all pull on heartstrings, say this customer is special after the fact, bemoan that both Verizon and the fire department have red tape making it a slower-than-necessary process, etc.
As a customer, I empathize with the fire department because it isn't always clear to us what unlimited is. But in this environment, while Verizon has fault here as does the general system, these public services need to do a bit more to ensure they are getting what they expect. Net neutrality isn't going to fix the "unlimited" wording issues or throttling as much as we'd like it to. That needs fixing sure, but in the meantime these public services need to get together and share info/plans/etc.
To the bigger problem...well, that's a different deal and not specific to this anecdote.
If they are selling an "unlimited" plan, then it should be unlimited (i.e. without throttling of any kind)
If they are selling a "20GB then throttled to 128kbs speeds" plan, then call it a "20GB plus" plan so everyone knows what they are buying.
Although Ars Technica is beating the net neutrality drum, this has more to do with a fire department administrator going cheap on operational costs, or not using the California state contracts. They are using an aircard in a command vehicle, probably with PC, multiple mobile devices and video as well. Just pay the $75 vs $40/mo, and you don’t have this problem.
Also, another jurisdiction like police, state emergency management, Feds, etc may have a plan that allows them to deprioritize you at any time. If they were in FirstNet, a machine to machine plan, or a Verizon public safety plan, there would be no issue.
I'm happily living on a 250MB plan.
I mean, if it is important enough to not be omitted...
That's the larger problem I alluded to. My point was about these important public services not doing some of the diligence many of us can. It's not about fine print or not, clearly what Verizon does is wrong, I'm just saying that these places need to put in a bit more research.
I think everyone here agrees that these companies shouldn't mislead, so just repeating that seems like obvious and meaningless discussion. I put "despite the overarching issues", "we can all [...] bemoan that [...] Verizon [...] have red tape", "I empathize", "fix the [...] wording as we'd like it to", "that needs fixing", "in the meantime", and "bigger problem [...] that's a different deal" all because it's clear what the larger problem is. My point is nuanced about public services and due diligence in these current annoying times, but clearly my attempts to avoid the obvious point didn't work.
You can't just assign the victim label and be done with your argument. There is nuance and shared responsibility.
Not everything is an exercise in identifying the victim, therefore the other is the perpetrator, therefore the 'victim' is absolved.
I think this goes back to the "don't sell an unlimited plan if you're going to insist on limits". Verizon didn't have to call it an unlimited plan, they chose to.
They could have just chosen not to compete in a market with unregulated definitions. You are improperly hating the player and not the game as though it's reasonable for them to not use definitions their competitors use when competing.
I don't think it's about regulating words. If you promise to sell a blue dog but sell a green dog, I don't expect a regulation saying blue has to be blue.
It's just false advertisement.
Verizon's a victim, yes, but it's a self-inflicted problem caused by their misleading marketing so they don't deserve any pity. Verizon willfully tries to bury and downplay the limitations of their "unlimited" services, and it is entirely appropriate for them to bear the blame when people or local government agencies fall for it.
"Unlimited 4G LTE Data" for $40
"Unlimited 4G LTE Data (22 GB)" for $50
"Unlimited 4G LTE Data (75 GB)" for $60
There is a little (i) symbol next to each one, with a mouse over box that explains the throttling. The throttling is also explained if you click the link "important plan info."
The first option could be clearer with a parenthetical, but with the three right next to each other alongside the prices it's pretty clear what you're buying.
> By "unlimited", we really meant "limited".
shouldn't be a valid defense for misleading consumers. The plan would be more accurately described as "15GB 4G LTE Data". If the limits were stated more prominently, the fire departments could have avoided confusion and worked with Verizon or a competitor to get on a plan that wouldn't stop working at the worst possible times. Verizon could have also avoided some bad press by just waiving the fees and sorting things out later instead of demanding extra money during an emergency.
It is pretty much impossible to construct a pricing plan for data service that will make power users happy. Data caps were crystal clear, but they are "gouging" because marginal bandwidth costs almost nothing. Fixed speed tiers are "false advertising" because sometimes the network is too congested to hit the advertised speed. The real issue is that companies are trying to achieve price discrimination, which benefits the average customer and the company at the expense of customers who use the product more intensively. It's like how Apple charges hundreds of dollars more for a few dollars worth of extra flash memory in an iPhone.
It's perfectly sensible to design the plan that way. I'm not complaining about the technical aspects, I'm complaining about the naming.
I don't really see the relevance of your second paragraph. Yes, people will complain regardless. That doesn't make false advertising OK. The real issue is that companies want to sell something they cannot provide.
There is no a priori limit at which you get throttled. If there is no congestion, you can exceed your limit and not get throttled. Even if you get throttled, you don't get cut off, just slowed down.
There's certainly more accurate ways to describe that than "unlimited" but I don't think it's particularly egregious compared to U.S. marketing in general.
Unlimited iPhone X
small print: Actually only can hold 256GB.
Yes, what all carriers are doing is lying. The corrupt telecommunication and advertising industries allow it lobby for it, and the US government allows it. Many other governments do not.
(Strictly speaking there is an asterisk, but it indicates that there are multiple versions of the hardware, unrelated to throttling.)
In any case, this is not quite analogous. There's a difference between "you can only achieve this speed sometimes" and "your plan is unlimited only if you don't pass the limit." It's not that "unlimited" is only true under specific conditions, it's that it's never true.
I don't understand the purpose of your comment. Even if there are worse things out there, so what?
I think advertising is bullshit in general. Yogurt commercials talking about probiotics and whatnot. But that's a much bigger debate, and I suspect we agree on that front. But if we define "false advertising" to exclude most U.S. advertising, I think it excludes Verizon's data plans as well. It's technically true because they don't cut you off after a certain number of MBs. That's all advertising has to be in the U.S.
(And as a practical matter, it's not even really misleading for the typical consumer. I've never looked at my bandwidth usage after switching to Verizon's "unlimited" plans, despite having very heavy cell phone users in my household. Even if I'm exceeding the soft limits, where I live I never run into congestion that would lead to throttling. The marketing accurately conveys that the typical consumer can stop worrying about overages. Which is a lot better than the promises made by yogurt commercials.)
I guess this is the confusion. My point is not that Verizon is doing something unusual and should be singled out for it. My point is that Verizon's behavior here is emblematic of how this country treats advertisers in general, and an "unlimited" plan with limits is just particularly obvious example of how we let companies lie to us.
The appropriate offer is here where you must contact a rep who is probably trained to inquire about the business's requirements: https://www.verizonwireless.com/biz/plans/business-unlimited...
For the $40 plan, the page says "For people who want unlimited, and no worries", and if I were buying a plan for fire command center, that's exactly what I'd want -- unlimited and no worries.
Though since none of the pricing they mentioned in the article matches what's on this page, it's likely that they did have some business plan.
> Important Plan Information
> Unlimited Plans 4G LTE only. During times of congestion, your data may be temporarily slower than other traffic (only after 22GB/mo on Beyond Unlimited or 75 GB/mo on Above Unlimited).
Beyond that, anybody who is purchasing service for something like a fire department would know the difference between best effort service and a service with an SLA. Consumers will always be best served by having over-provisioning and best-effort service, because their needs are by nature bursty. Put another way, if you build a network that never throttles, you're leaving tons of capacity on the table that would be better used to offer faster burst downloads.
That problem is not best-effort service, it's a government entity that doesn't realize it needs a level service with real guarantees.
Their complaint is that they were throttled 24/7, not just during congestion.
> But while such throttling is generally applied only during times of network congestion, the Santa Clara Fire Department says it was throttled at all times once the device in question went over a 25GB monthly threshold.
Before we allow ISP's to (ab)use fires, we should insist on provable congestion. If they refuse to self-regulate the internet traffic in the public interest, then the public interest should move to regulate internet traffic just like it regulates car traffic: priority to emergency services first.
In fact I am not against on the spot pricing schemes, as long as the demand and supply is provable.
I would consider such a system neutral enough. I wouldn't mind scheduling some datasets to download when network demand is low etc...
Here I started a download, the rsrq drops. After finishing, the rsrq rises again. Note that the values are still "jittery" so a single value should not be taken as a clear indicator that a cell is congested.
Here is a graph for the last 7 days. One can see that during nighttime received quality rises, while it lowers during daytime.
Device in use is a Huawei B618, no external antennas.
In my experience, this is BS. I live in the sticks and when I hit my limit (which is 15GB in mifi...22GB is for phones), I get 600kpbs or less at all times, not just during "congestion". And I can't imagine how much congestion there is in my rural area. 600kbps is nearly non-usable.
If I sold you unlimited water but after 1 gallon you could only drink one drop per minute that doesn't make me a liar but it does make me an asshole for telling you it was unlimited.
The plans clearly say that for Mifi (i.e. hotspots), the limit is 15GB with 600kbps thereafter, not unlimited...
No regulation leads to social Darwinian inverted totalitarianism where corporations are free to indirectly exploit, savage and murder whomever doesn't pay.
To be clear, I am not talking about safety regulation, but competition regulation.
Look at New Zealand and countless other countries who have forcably unbundled their networks. Everyone pays less and there is true competition between providers.
Utilities like the internet gravitate toward monopolies and less competition. Utilities MUST have regulation to protect consumers from their monopolistic nature.
At least as to wired Internet, they don't: https://www.akamai.com/fr/fr/multimedia/documents/state-of-t... see also: https://www.recode.net/2017/12/13/16773062/global-internet-s.... The U.S. beats Germany, the U.K., France, Spain, and Italy (the countries comprising the large majority of the EU population).
The U.S. is also one of just five countries to have more than 90% LTE coverage: https://opensignal.com/reports/2018/02/state-of-lte. The big EU countries have faster LTE speeds, but much lower coverage (ranging from 65% in Germany to 83% in Spain).
Belgium has a 94.5% coverage as per last year. The report shows 85%.
The reason is pretty simple, per the report: "OpenSignal's availability metric tracks the proportion of time users have access to a particular network."
That's not coverage. Your source doesn't show what you think it does!
That was years ago though so things may be different now.
You'd use the same line of argument here, if we are talking about an actual emergency and not just ordinary operations (can see that from the article). I do understand intentional actions like price gouging are worse than keeping the usual automats running. But still, with "state of emergency" in effect, I'd hope for communication companies making all installed (idle) capacity available, even when not payed for.
In such an environment, if I couldn’t be sure when the next supplies were going to be available, it would be entirely rational to buy as many supplies as my family needed for the worst reasonable case. So, right up until the gas, food, and water runs out, I’m buying at a normal price.
Now, companies that might be able to truck supplies in from nearby areas (using additional trucks, fuel, and overtime labor) also don’t have a profit motive available to them, because they can only sell at normal+10% prices, which may not cover the genuine increased costs.
So in an attempt to protect consumers, we move from a state where supplies are available to those with need (albeit at higher prices) to a state where the quickest, sharpest, and best capitalized get all the food, water, and fuel and none is available at any price. I think the latter state is a less desirable one.
Capitalism & markets are great, but have failure modes we have to be aware of. Emergency situations exhibit many of those and thus it can be beneficial to temporarily suspend usual markets and capitalism on some levels. You cant make an informed purchase decision with no time, information, nothing to trade or a combination of all of those factors.
See the quote from the Texas AG in the article here:
If you were a shop owner faced simultaneously with increased inbound costs, constrained supply, utility interruptions, your own family and home to be concerned with, and that threat from the AG, would you sell anything to anyone? To anyone over 65? Why not just close up shop until the situation passes and hunker down at home protecting your own family? I’d probably do the latter rather than risk the fines. Does that make people better off?
In a survival situation, suppressing the price signal suppresses the clearest signal for consumers not to over-buy, especially for goods that can be traded for other needed supplies.
$99/case for water the day after a hurricane might very well be the “optimal” price until the soda/beer companies can switch over to bottling (canning) water to the affected area. Keep it at $18-20/case and the first 5 customers will rationally buy it all, because that checks that concern off their list. It doesn’t even require them to be misanthropes, just providing for and protecting their families. Worst case, water becomes available quicker than they thought and no harm to them other than they bought $100 worth of water for $100.
Also, these plans are bespoke and rarely worked with, its likely their Verizon rep didn't bother to look into any of the handful of custom plans that you get as a WSCA account. Another benefit is a flat 25% discount or thereabouts IIRC, any public agency or charity in most states can get these plans FYI.
Are you assuming it's possible?
First, if they're a monopoly, your "due diligence" is "Yep, we need a service and they're the only ones who provide it. We build our own using money we'll never have or we go with them."
Second, cell phone companies are known for lying. Just outright lying. (My proof: If a service is limited, calling it unlimited is a lie.) How can you do due diligence when the party you do it with is lying to you?
About 2 years ago, a couple employees including myself began working at a new location with no wired internet access. They were given Verizon USB dongles to plug into their laptops. Including those dongles, company-wide there were only a handful of devices on this Verizon plan.
Over time, the company got more employees at the new location. We were provided a wireless hotspot (one of the verizon jetpack devices) for everyone in the office to use. Eventually we started getting messages from the company's IT department that we were using too much data. Turns out every single verizon device at the company shared a single 60 GB data cap. Our device alone used like 15-20 GB. It only takes a couple devices used like that to blow past the data cap.
Since the company was adding new employees at the new location, as well as giving out more dongles, we managed to get them to switch to a larger data plan. I think it was 80 GB. As you can probably guess, it didn't take long to go over the cap again. Finally, some time late last year we were told by IT that the company switched to an unlimited data plan. No more caps.
Fast forward to the last 3-6 months. Like clockwork towards the end of the month the internet is slow as hell in the office. I would clock it in the 20-70 kbps range. We check the display on the hotspot and the data usage section says "Data usage: 26 GB / unlimited". I call our IT department and am told, "that's really strange. Let me call Verizon."
The next day IT calls me back. I get told "You're not going to believe this. The company data plan is unlimited. Verizon has a per-device cap at 22 GB, and then they throttle the connection. They want such an exorbitant fee to increase the device cap that it was cheaper for me to order a hotspot for everyone in the office (about 4 or 5 new devices)." Since we had a bunch of local devices set up on the jetpack's LAN, now whenever we hit the 22 GB cap and get throttled, we just swap in a new SIM from another device.
It really makes me laugh though, because when we have a few devices using roughly 15-20 GB each, Verizon had no problem letting us blow past the 60 GB data cap. None of the devices throttled the connection. The company would just receive a bill with hefty per-GB overage charges each month. When we switched to the 'unlimited' plan, IT was just as surprised as we were with the throttling. That was the whole point of the 'unlimited' plan.
This is one anecdote. But the fire department's experience reminds me way too much of the experience at my company. It's possible that both the fire department IT and my company's IT didn't do their due diligence. But my instinct tells me that verizon doesn't always make it clear that "unlimited data plan" is "unlimited data plan with a per-device cap, and subsequent throttling," especially if you are switching from a capped multi-device plan to an 'unlimited' multi-device plan.
This has nothing to do with the definition of "unlimited" or the fine print for it. OES 5262 (that's a CalOES resource) had sufficient bandwidth for fire response needs up until the Mendocino Complex incident, when their connection was strangled so badly that it wasn't just slow, it was unusable, during a major state disaster. This put a lot of lives directly at risk.
Their brief is arguing in support of the lawsuit against the FCC that's attempting to overturn the repeal of net neutrality. They argue that in a deregulated environment, providers like Verizon can and will use disasters to strong-arm responding agencies -- state and local governments -- into paying higher fees. This is well supported by Verizon's emails, which flatly refused to assist SCCFD until they ponied up the extra money for a plan upgrade that they didn't need until the Mendocino fire.
The article also adds that the FCC's removal of net neutrality removed the ability for SCCFD to complain to the FCC about this behavior.
A few people are saying that maybe the fire department should have more carefully reviewed their plan information, or they should have had more qualified people in IT. Well, maybe. I looked up Eric Prosser's LinkedIn profile, and he's spent his whole career in management. Maybe there was a technical issue, or maybe it was just an oversight.
But ultimately it's hard for agencies to attract strong technical talent, especially in Silicon Valley, where so much of that talent is working on the much more interesting problems of squeezing more money out of advertising or debt collections. If you want your first responder agencies to have working technology, get involved. Somewhere in each of those agencies is a human being who may not think about things like bandwidth throttling as carefully as HN's nerds.
The reasonable thing here would be to simply require companies to be honest and state the actual bandwidth they provide.
This issue seems orthogonal to net neutrality; the real problem is in allowing companies to mislead.
It wouldn't surprise me to find out that Verizon wants this too. Or maybe not, I don't know the landscape. But I don't expect them to altruistically abide by more reasonable definitions of these terms while their competitors don't (unless being honest is part of their selling point).
If we want truth in advertising, then the banners would say
"Unlimited 200Kbps Internet, capable of 25GB of 4G burst speed"
Which is much different than
"Unlimited 4G Internet", then a bunch of small text about the limits.