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It's no secret that carriers dislike the thought of giving consumers free reign on their wireless networks. Remove a tangible data cap, and some customers will take full advantage of the extra, unused bandwidth. So in light of smartphones that encourage and enable more data usage, some carriers started implementing hard and soft data caps.

A few months back, I joined the tiered data fold, waving a forlorn goodbye to the unlimited data package I had since I was 16. Between my two lines, I now have 7GB of data to consume each month. And, for the most part, I've been okay. I have come to grips with not chewing through as much data as possible, and I have become quite familiar with my data caps, getting closer and closer to an overage each month. Namely, this is because I am constantly looking for and finding new things I can do with my smartphone which, of course, means I am gradually using more and more bits.

And because of this, it's only a matter of time before I do incur and overage, before I am forced to pay for more data.

This current billing cycle, I have used somewhere north of 6GB (my AT&T account quit counting as of 10/29, for whatever reason) and have five more days until the last counter resets. And as I'm having to curb my usage to avoid an overage, mainly because I don't know exactly how much data I've used, I'm reminded of how nice it was not to have to worry about consumption and monitor data usage.

Late last night, I had a thought. "What if carriers reinstated unlimited data plans?" It's a pipe dream, I know. But if they did, how much would you all be willing to pay to get unlimited back?

For correctness' sake, you can still get unlimited data on both Sprint and T-Mobile – that's currently their big gambit. So you could just switch carriers, and you might end up paying less money each month. However, depending on your location, there may be sacrifices that have to be made to feel the comfort of unlimited data.

For me, there is no Sprint LTE in my area, which means I would be stuck on the Now Network's 3G network. In these parts, Sprint's 3G network isn't exactly … great. Just this Friday, a friend of mine who is a long-time Sprint user was complaining to me about the speeds on his iPhone 5, claiming speeds rarely exceed 1Mbps down. The uplink is notably worse. I've experienced it, too. In an area with decent Sprint 3G coverage, a phone I had on me kept timing out and couldn't work fast enough to find a nearby server using the SpeedTest.net app. When I finally managed to find a server, the phone's speeds weighed in at 0.05Mbps down and 0.02Mbps up.

Once Sprint builds out its LTE network a considerable amount, though, the unlimited offerings will be a force to be reckoned with.

As for T-Mobile, it's not terrible in my area. But data coverage is questionable in areas where I spend much of my free time. And T-Mobile doesn't have LTE. The unlimited data is offered in the form of 42Mbps HSPA+, which is great if its in your area. For me, the coverage just isn't there when and where I need it.

In a weird, twisted way, I've found comfort and gotten used to paying more for more solid service with AT&T and Verizon in the Charlotte and Winston-Salem areas. And it's fairly safe to say I'm not switching service anytime soon. It's also safe to say neither Big Red or Ol' Blue are going to bring unlimited data back anytime soon.

No less, if they did, I would be willing to pay a pretty penny for it – at least significantly more than I was before.

Back when it was offered, unlimited data on both AT&T and Verizon was $30 per month per subscriber. Right now, I pay $50 per month for 5GB of data on AT&T and $30 per month for 2GB on Verizon. I'm paying $80 each month for a total of 7GB of data. That's $11.43 per month per gigabyte.

For the comfort of not having to worry about how much I'm using every month, I would pay over double what I was paying before. Anywhere from $60 to $80 per month would be realistic. That said, I wouldn't pay for it on both lines – just one. I would even consider consolidating to a single line and paying upwards of $100 every month.

Crazy, I know. But I would most definitely be willing to pay that kind of money for the peace of mind.

Unfortunately, shared data is where everything is going. And for people like me, it's no cheaper than what I'm currently paying. In fact, the shared data options are more expensive: Verizon charges $80 for 6GB of data plus $40 per month per smartphone on its Share Everything plan, and AT&T charges $90 for the same 6GB with Mobile Share, plus $35 per smartphone per month. Not to mention, they include unlimited minutes and texting – two things I care nothing about, thanks to Google Voice and my distaste for phone calls.

We know it's not going to happen anytime in the foreseeable future. But what would you pay, readers, to have unlimited data on your carrier of choice again? $80? $100? More? Name your price and sound off in the comments below.


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