Verizon Forcing Users onto Pricier Plans to Get $50 Internet Subsidy

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The government recently launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, which is designed to help low-income people pay their internet bills. Verizon is one of several telecom companies taking flak for using this program not to help customers but to allegedly line their own pockets.

Instead of applying the government subsidy to offset the cost of an existing plan, these companies are angering customers by forcing them to switch to a new plan that may be more expensive.

Out of all the internet providers, customers have the most complaints with Verizon, reports Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler.

According to frustrated customers, they cannot signup online and must call customer service to receive an EBB subsidy. When trying to apply for the subsidy, some customers are being told they must change their older data plans to new Fios plans, most of which are more expensive.

In the short term, customers will save money even if they switch to a more expensive plan. Once this subsidy runs out in a few months, customers will find themselves in a financial pinch. They cannot switch back to their old plan and will be stuck paying the higher bill.

One customer was told she had to boost her internet speed and switch her TV package, changes that would end up costing more than $50 per month. The process was so frustrating that she gave up and concluded that “it seems like EBB only benefits Verizon.”

Verizon responded to the Washington Post with a statement defending its practice. Verizon spokesman Alex Lawson pointed out that the company clearly states that the $50 EBB subsidy can only be used with qualifying plans, specifically the company’s Mix & Match plans. These plans allow customers to choose only the services they need, such as the internet, and drop those like a home phone.

“We’re on the side of the customer and want to ensure they pay for what they need, and not for what they don’t,” stated Lawson. 

AT&T and Charter also are restricting the EBB to specific plans and using this restriction to force customers to upgrade their older plans.

The only telecom bucking this trend is Comcast, which applies to the EBB to any plan for customers who qualify for the program.

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