What will you do once you lose unlimited data forever?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: May 17, 2012

For six or seven years now, my family and I have had multiple smartphones with unlimited data plans. We originally switched to smartphones during the days of Alltel and were unexpectedly and reluctantly scooped up by Verizon Wireless in the beginning of 2009. Fast forward three years and those luxurious unlimited data plans are at serious risk.

Yesterday, FierceWireless reported that during the 40th J.P. Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom conference, Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo said that Verizon plans to launch family shared data plans sometime this summer, which is nothing particularly new or exciting. Verizon has been relatively open about the future of data plans and some of the things they have in the pipeline – drip-casting, for instance – for months now.

However, Shammo also brought a bit of bad news for any Verizon customers still residing on 3G unlimited data plans. Once Big Red's family shared plans launch, those with grandfathered unlimited data plans will lose unlimited and be phased into shared plans. "Everyone will be on data share," Shammo said.

Just last week, I wrote a piece titled Will you trade unlimited for shared family data?, yet now we know that this will not even be an option. Data share plans will be forced on families and businesses because, as Shammo says on behalf of Verizon, "That is beneficial to us."

Yesterday afternoon, I texted my mom to tell her that we would lose unlimited data come summer. Irate and immediately assuming I had done something to the account, she called me. After explaining to her that I didn't change anything and that I hadn't subscribed to Dream Audio Misty Alerts via SMS (apparently my family got hit pretty hard with SMS spam last month), she said, "I'll leave. I'll go somewhere else."

Judging by my mother, some of my friends and the comment section on Alex's article yesterday, that's the initial reaction a lot of customers will have. But once they learn data offerings are hardly any better on other networks, they will likely stay where they are. That, or Sprint will have a sudden influx of new subscribers, and they, too, will be caught between a rock and a hard place. (Despite Sprint's optimistic outlook on unlimited data, I honestly don't think it will last very long.)

To be honest, I knew this day would eventually come. I just had no idea it would be this soon. When I purchased the HTC ThunderBolt just over a year ago, a Verizon rep and I talked about data plans. He told me that by the time I upgraded again, I would lose my unlimited plan, that Verizon already had an expiration date on grandfathered unlimited data. I doubted him (as I normally do with carrier reps). But I have kept the thought that he may be right in the back of my mind ever since.

Now I'm unsure what I will do. Immediately after reading the story yesterday, I started scheming. I will buy a 4G phone no-contract now and switch to a 4G LTE unlimited data plan before Verizon starts killing that option off. Then, once the phone I really want comes out, I will buy it off-contract and have the phone I want with the unlimited plan I don't want to lose. I'm not even sure that will work. Chances are, Verizon will have planned for people like me who try and beat the system and will kill my dreams of being a rogue, no-contract subscriber with unlimited data before I even get the chance. In the end, it would probably be more trouble than it's worth and I would end up paying more, which would ultimately defeat the purpose. (One can dream, though. Right?)

Truth be told, I will probably do exactly what most will do: sign off on a new phone, pay an upgrade fee and succumb to family shared data.

The better question, though, is what my family will want to do. Of the four of us, my sister and I use the most data, while both my mother and grandmother combined have only used about 70MB nearly halfway through this month's billing cycle. I've been known to use anywhere from 1GB to 6GB in a single month and I can't imagine my sister ever passes 1GB. All I can do now is hope that family shared plans come in a respectable size (read: larger than 5GB or 10GB) and at a decent price.

I'm not going to hold my breath, though.

And either way, whether it's cheaper, more data than we could ever imagine using or a rip-off, my mother will be up in arms over it. And I already am. Why did Verizon even allow grandfathered plans if they were only going to last a year and throttle them anyway? Now Big Red is going to have to deal with an angry mob of nearly 100 million subscribers that will soon have to switch to a data plan they don't want.

Something has to give already.

How do you feel about knowing you will soon lose your unlimited grandfathered plan, readers? Will you postpone upgrading for as long as possible? Will you switch carriers? Or do you think you might have a workaround that can keep you on unlimited data for longer?