By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Imagine getting mobile Internet service for less than $50 a month — along with a free device to connect you to the network. And tack on a provider who has (reportedly) the best coverage in the U.S. That’s what members (and prospective members) of FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) got pretty excited about in mid-June when the news hit that FMCA and Verizon had banged out a deal to do just that. Now stop for a second, and go back to the opening word of this story: Imagine.
Imagine it, because, thanks to the unrelenting mantra of Big Business — look out for the stockholders — Verizon has reneged on the agreement, leaving the FMCA with a major case of egg on its face.
Evidently the FMCA folks had worked for months to cut a good deal for their members. After negotiating in good faith, they got the nod from the folks at Verizon. Along the way, FMCA had given Verizon copies of the material they’d shoot to the membership, and editorial content announcing the deal in the group’s membership magazine. All good. A couple of weeks ago they did a “soft” roll-out, selecting a small portion of the membership at random to offer the deal. That way, they’d be able to gauge response, and make sure that all the necessary parts of the system were in place to handle those who wanted the service.
You can only picture how those who heard about the deal responded. Not only did they enthusiastically swamp the FMCA group tasked with signing them up, many hailed the news like zealous evangelizers: tweeting, e-mailing, and posting the good news on RV forums far and wide. It didn’t take long for the news to make it outside of RV circles. We read a couple of articles in “plain package cell phone” websites about the great deal, and these urged their readers to quickly join FMCA and jump on the program. Unfortunately, most didn’t mention you had to own a motorhome to qualify for FMCA membership, but even then, the FMCA “new member sign up” page clearly spelled out that not-just-anybody could be an FMCA member.
Of those who were “legit” FMCA members, it didn’t take long for the number of new Internet accounts allotted by Verizon to fill up. Those who couldn’t sign up in June were pushed into the July allotments. Within a matter of days, all of July’s slots were filled up. While the good folks at Verizon should have heard not only the ringing of cell phones but the ringing of cash registers as well, perhaps they only heard the sound of dirges. Before anybody could even get the Google home page up on their computers, Verizon pulled the rug, killing the program, and leaving FMCA members and leaders in the lurch.
It’s like the old hardware store joke: Verizon went nuts, bolted, and the customers got screwed.
We’re sorry to hear about the affair. We’re sorry that the club got stiffed. Sadly, it’s not all that surprising. We know of plenty of Verizon customers who, long ago, had “unlimited Internet connectivity,” and over the years have witnessed how Verizon has virtually killed off their unlimited access through a series of dirty tricks and loopholes.
We’ve been with Verizon for years, and we pay plenty for our phone and Internet service. When the company offered their so-called “unlimited Internet” plan a few months ago, we read the fine print. We’re on a 30-gigabyte-a-month plan. For a few dollars a month less, we too, could have unlimited access. Right! And after we hit 23 gigs, the company can throttle us down to 3G speeds. Try working for a major RV online newsletter, uploading pictures and doing huge amounts of download work all month long, happy as a clam, until that magic 23 gigabyte number rolls up. No thanks, we’ll do everything we have to in order to keep our 30-gig plan, even paying extra money when we roll over those 30 gigs, because if we allow Verizon to generously “allow” us to roll up to the next level, even for just a month, we’ll never get the price-point back for the 30 gigs we now buy.
If Verizon weren’t the 500-pound gorilla of the roving Internet world, we’d drop them in an instant. But as it is, we, like too many other RVers, are basically stuck with their tricks. It’s just another side of a world that needs more than just a little reforming.