Verizon forces customers to sign up for pricier plans to receive $50 per month in gov’t subsidies.


You might need to modify your Internet plans to receive the FCC’s $50 subsidy for low-income.

Verizon and other Internet service provider companies are stopping low-income customers from receiving government subsidies of $50 per month. They are asking them to switch to more expensive plans.

Nationally, 825 ISPs are selling plans that qualify for the subsidies the US government gave to those who had low incomes or lost their income due to the pandemic. According to Geoffrey Fowler, a Washington Post tech columnist, Verizon is the exception among large ISPs when it uses the subsidy to “upsell” customers to more expensive plans.

He wrote, “Soon after EBB [Emergency broadband benefit program] launched, I began hearing from Washington Post readers regarding their frustrations with signing up for certain ISPs.” Readers were most furious at Verizon.

Verizon will not allow people to enrol online. Instead, they will require them to call a number to sign up. Then, Verizon “tells some customers that the EBB cannot be used on ‘old data plans, so we’ll have to change,” the Post article stated. Verizon has limited the options available for both mobile and home Internet services.

Temporarily, the EBB will be in effect until $3.2 billion of program funding is exhausted or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares a halt to the pandemic. Customers of Verizon who need to change to a higher-priced plan to receive the $50 monthly discount will have to pay the increased rate once the subsidy ends.

According to a FAQ, “After the program, you will choose whether to continue with your plan at the same price as before or terminate your Internet-related services with Verizon.” This decision will be made when you enrol in the EBB program and again before the program ends. If you don’t affirmatively agree to keep your Internet-related service, the FCC will require that we disengage those services after the EBB program.

“It seems that EBB only benefits Verizon.”

Fowler was contacted by a few Verizon customers, who said that switching to a subsidy-eligible program would mean they would pay more once the EBB ends. Fowler wrote that Eric, a man from Hopedale in Massachusetts, was told by Verizon that he would have to change from a $62 home Internet plan to a $79 one.

Subsidy restrictions

Verizon does not offer home Internet subsidies for legacy DSL plans. It only shows it in areas without upgraded copper lines or fibre. Verizon still claims to have a few hundred thousand DSL customers. It reports that it has 6.3 million fibre Internet users, which is 6.7 million overall. To receive the subsidy on Verizon fibre service, customers will need to purchase a FiOS Mix + Match internet plan. The support is also available for Verizon’s LTE and 5G home Internet services.

Customers who have been with Verizon fibre-to-the-home Internet for a few years and have not changed to the Mix & Match pricing model that FiOS adopted in January 2022 would be required to cancel their existing plans. If a subscriber bundles broadband and TV or phone service, this can confuse and lead to very different prices.

Verizon’s EBB page states that mobile customers can receive a subsidy on a Mix & Match Unlimited plan or a Mobile Hotspot to be the main or sole line of an account. To get $50 off, phone users without a Mix & Match plan will need to switch to one.

Mix & Match Unlimited is only available to postpaid customers. Prepaid customers will not be eligible for the subsidy through Verizon. Ars reached out to Verizon today. They declined to answer our questions and didn’t say if prepaid customers could get the support. Instead, Verizon referred us to press releases that did not provide details. Verizon should have said whether EBB subsidies are available for mobile hotspot customers who have prepaid plans instead of postpaid.

T-Mobile, Charter and AT&T have also restricted the eligibility for subsidies. Fowler noted in the Post that Comcast was the nation’s largest ISP. “This is a refreshing standout.” Joel Shadle, a spokesperson for Comcast, stated that customers who are on an older plan and have not been offered any new projects are still eligible, provided they meet the eligibility criteria for EBB.

FCC allows ISPs to offer only one subsidized plan

Dana Floberg (policy manager at Free Press) wrote that this was “extremely disappointing” on Twitter. “ISPs could accept the $50 EBB for all plans and tiers. It’s as good as the money. It is best to manipulate people into switching intends to get the benefits they are legally entitled to.

EBB is not mandatory for ISPs. Those that do must make one plan available to customers who are eligible for subsidies.

“We accept our proposal to require providers to offer the EBB Program Discount on at least one service offering in all of its approved areas in each state in which it has been approved to participate,” stated the FCC in its order to implement the program.

Congress mandated that the FCC implement the subsidy program. Congress also decided certain aspects, such as the number of subsidies and who was eligible. The law that established the program prohibits ISPs from charging customers subsidized more than the retail rate they charge as of December 1, 2022.

The FCC can make some adjustments to the program rules. It concluded that requiring one service plan would increase participation by ISPMore than one service plus need dice to fulfil the program requirements. However, the FCC stated that it encourages participating providers to make EBB Program support accessible to eligible households for all of its service offerings.

FCC’s EBB website provides information about how to apply for subsidies and how to apply. It also lists providers participating in the program.

Verizon: We’re there for the customer

Verizon said yesterday that it had enrolled almost 1,000 customers within a matter of days after implementing the subsidy program.

T-Mobile, Charter and AT&T policies

AT&T’s EBB page states that the subsidy is available for home-Internet service and prepaid phone service. AT&T doesn’t appear to offer support for postpaid plans.

AT&T, like Verizon, requires customers to call to sign up for the subsidy. All AT&T subsidy-eligible plans will be subject to the $10/mo. Equipment fee, plus a $1.50/mo. Sales tax. AT&T states that it will pay the equipment fee if applicable.

The Post reports that Charter says that “an extremely small portion of customers” with legacy Internet plans will need to switch to Spectrum Internet plans as part of their enrollment in the EBB. Charter informed Ars that legacy plans included those sold by Time Warner Cable or Bright House Networks before Charter’s acquisition in 2022. Also, there are a small number of Charter plans which predate Spectrum offerings. Charter stated that it would make the subsidy available for all Spectrum Internet plans except its gigabit speed offering.


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