Verizon promises an open road for unlimited-data customers

The company may have raised the price of its grandfathered unlimited-data plan, but it says it won't try to slow down its heaviest users.

Customers who signed up for unlimited data are going to get it, Verizon says. That means no throttling. Verizon

Verizon Wireless' unlimited-data customers finally have something to celebrate.

Subscribers to the carrier's grandfathered unlimited plans won't suffer slowdowns, even if they run wild with their data usage, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said in an interview Tuesday.

The nation's largest wireless operator, which has a history of trying to nudge customers off unlimited plans, has become the last bastion of people who use a lot of data. Last week, Sprint joined the ranks of AT&T and T-Mobile in saying it would , or slow down their connection, if they went over a certain data threshold.

Throttling policies underscore the high cost of providing unlimited-data services. New York-based Verizon is not immune. The company earlier this month raised the price of its unlimited service by $20 a month, but Shammo is adamant that Verizon won't follow its competitors in restricting usage.

"For a customer who signed up for unlimited, they're going to get unlimited," Shammo said. "But we are increasing the price. These customers are consuming a lot of data. But we're not in the habit of throttling customers."

Verizon hasn't offered its unlimited-data plan to new customers in four years, but it has let existing subscribers who were grandfathered into the plans keep them. The company hasn't made it easy on these people, crafting policies to discourage as many customers as possible from hanging on to the plans. Verizon has required unlimited subscribers to pay full price for new devices when upgrading. It also instituted the $20 price hike, which goes into effect next month and will bring the total cost of the service to around $100 a month for most customers.

The policies were meant to encourage people to switch to tiered plans with a set amount of data that can be used each month. The efforts have paid off, with less than 1 percent of Verizon subscribers still on an unlimited-data plan.

Verizon wasn't always so anti-throttling. For years it slowed down customers with unlimited data on its 3G wireless network, abandoning the practice in June. The company had come under fire from regulators when it tried to expand the practice to its 4G customers. Last fall the company said it wouldn't go through with that plan.

Even though Verizon subscribers are the only ones to enjoy true unlimited data, customers on AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile still have to work pretty hard before their network speeds are affected. The thresholds differ by carrier, but most customers won't see a slowdown until they hit more than 20 gigabytes in a month, or enough data to stream all five seasons of the HBO series "Game of Thrones." The average user consumes about 3GB of data per month.

Still, it's a minor victory for a base of customers who have stubbornly clung to their plans.

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