The Large Print Giveth and the Small Print Taketh Away


Annys Shin has an interesting piece in the Washington Post blogs today, on Verizon Wireless’ definition of unlimited high-speed wireless Internet access.

A computer consultant who was foolish enough to use this resource to the tune of 166MB/day had his contract permanently terminated and was told that he had “abused and damaged” Verizon’s network. Now, working from the broadband wall math that we did a few months ago and some information available from the Verizon Wireless Web site, here’s what we get:

Verizon’s service claims sustained download speeds of 400-700kbps, with bursts up to 2MB per second. For simplicity’s sake let’s say that conservatively amounts to 768k down. 24/7 usage of this unlimited 768k downstream connection would mean that you’re downloading approximately 8,000MB of data per day (or 230GB of data per month).

So that 166MB/day “abusive” download behavior? That’s using 2% of the theoretical capacity this gentleman was paying for.

To be fair, however, it was this guy’s own fault: he neglected to read the fine print in the service agreement, which notes that “If more than 5G/line/month, we [Verizon] presume use is for non-permitted uses and will terminate service.” Referring again to our wall math, we can restate this clause as: if you are foolish enough to try to use more than 2% of this “unlimited” capacity that we’re selling you, we’re shutting you down because anybody who pulls down a lot of data is nothing but a movie downloading, music sharing, VOIP using bitch.”

Verizon Wireless appears to be taking a page from the music industry’s playbook: presume that your customers are all nogoodnick criminals and treat them accordingly.

I take some small consolation from the fact that this is such transparently deceptive advertising that Verizon might actually be forced to increase the font size on these notes by half a point or so…