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When Verizon FiOS unveiled a $70-per-month gigabit Internet plan two weeks ago, the company’s existing customers quickly discovered that the deal was too good to be true. It turned out that only new customers were eligible for the $70 price, even though Verizon’s announcement didn’t mention that caveat. Worse, existing subscribers who tried to upgrade were told that the standard price could be as high as $200 a month.wrote about this on April 25, the poorly implemented rollout was still causing confusion for both customers and Verizon customer service reps. Verizon promised to get the gigabit upgrade system working by April 30, saying that existing customers who upgraded to gigabit speeds would end up with monthly bills of around $95 a month, more or less.
But there’s still a lot of variation in prices and no good explanation for why some customers pay significantly more than others. The billing problems are supposed to be fixed by now, but Verizon customers we’ve talked to are getting upgrade prices ranging from about $67 to about twice as much for the same exact service.
Verizon has said that customers with 150Mbps service can upgrade to gigabit for an additional $20 a month.
One Internet-only customer in Virginia who spoke to Ars was paying $95 for 150Mbps service and upgraded to gigabit for $190 a month before the pricing problems were fixed. This customer told us he was taking a “calculated risk” that Verizon would lower his bill, since Verizon was promising automatic bill reductions for customers who already subscribed to the highest speed tier. The gamble paid off to an extent. The customer received an e-mail saying that his bill will be lowered by $60 a month “on or before June 30,” which should reduce his bill to $130.
But that’s still $35 more than the $95 this customer was paying for 150Mbps service. It’s not clear why this customer has to pay $35 more for gigabit when Verizon said customers should be able to upgrade for an additional $20.
Verizon previously told us that customers with standalone 150Mbps service usually pay $75 today and thus would pay $95 after the gigabit upgrade. The $95 price for people upgrading from 150Mbps plans was the only upgrade price example Verizon was willing to provide us. The company said prices would vary by customer, depending on each customer’s current service package. But the actual prices seen by customers show there is a ton of price variation even within the only upgrade scenario Verizon was willing to discuss publicly.
Verizon had also said that customers who previously ordered 750Mbps service would get a speed upgrade to gigabit and automatic price reduction to $80 a month. Technically, the old 750Mbps and new gigabit tiers are the same, as the gigabit speed was treated as an upgrade to the previous top speed. The Virginia customer’s billing situation is thus only slightly different from the scenario that should result in an $80 bill, yet he’s paying $130.
One customer in New Jersey who is paying $127.86 for 150Mbps Internet speeds in a triple-play package with TV and phone service looked up the available plans on May 1 and was given the option to upgrade to gigabit for another $20 a month, raising the total bill to about $148.
Verizon’s gigabit speeds are available in a little more than half of its territory, specifically in parts of New York; New Jersey; Philadelphia; Richmond, Virginia; Hampton Roads, Virginia; Boston; Providence; and Washington, DC.
A Verizon miracle: Lower than the advertised price
One New York City customer we talked to is getting gigabit Internet for only $67.20 a month, but getting to that price was a difficult process. He had 75Mbps service for $66.98 a month including fees on a two-year plan scheduled to expire in May 2018, and this customer was initially told by Verizon that the gigabit price would be $200 a month for existing subscribers. He tried again after Verizon “fixed” the upgrade process, and the online ordering system quoted a price of $109 plus taxes and fees.
But he then called Verizon and was able to get a triple play (Internet, phone, and TV) package for $67.20 a month and opted not to have the phone and TV portions installed since he only wants Internet service. The Verizon rep wasn’t able to offer a cheaper price for standalone Internet service. There’s a $90 installation fee to be paid up front, but the monthly price is even better than the offer for new subscribers.
“I didn’t even have to threaten leaving to get this price, I just said to the guy on the phone that I’d like to inquire about the gigabit Internet plan and he came back with this as his first offer,” the customer said. Discounts will start expiring in May 2018, but he plans to cancel the unneeded TV and phone service when that happens in order to keep his bill relatively low.
“I probably could have negotiated harder, to get rid of that installation fee considering I’m not going to be using the TV or phone and will not have them installed, but I need to have the ONT [optical network terminal] upgraded for the new service as my existing one is around 10 years old (or more) so figured it wasn’t worth pressing the issue,” the customer said.
Verizon gives no clear explanation
We asked Verizon on Monday this week why these customers are seeing such different results when upgrading to the same service. The company told us on Tuesday that “there were a few issues last week that we’ve since fixed,” but Verizon offered no further information. The situations we described in this article are all current as of this week, so it doesn’t appear that there will be any more changes for these customers.
Verizon’s pricing strategy creates a lot of uncertainty for subscribers. By contrast, Google Fiber charges $70 a month for gigabit service in all cities where it has deployed fiber. AT&T’s gigabit prices have generally varied a bit by region, but even AT&T has come closer to standardized gigabit pricing than Verizon.
Unfortunately, home Internet customers have little choice of providers, especially at the high speeds Verizon is offering. If you want the best available price, you should probably check online and call Verizon to review all options, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to predict what specific price you’re likely to get.
This story was corrected to note that the New Jersey customer has a triple-play plan, not standalone Internet service.