Verizon announced today that it has launched a brand new 4G LTE home internet option for residents in parts of Savannah, Georgia, Springfield, Missouri, and the Tri-Cities of both Tennessee and Virginia. In a statement to Gizmodo, a Verizon spokesperson said the new plan is primarily for rural customers in those areas where there is “excess network capacity.” It’s not exactly the kind of expansion the U.S. needs to close the digital divide, but it’s a small, small start.
But expanded internet plans don’t mean much if the costs are out of reach for those who live in rural areas, and there’s a lot of fine-print regarding Verizon’s new home internet that potential customers should be aware of.
If you are already a Verizon customer, this home internet plan can be yours for $40 a month, but non-Verizon customers have to pay $60 a month. Not only that, but current Verizon customers must also pay $30 or more a month on other bills to be eligible for that $20 discount, and non-Verizon customers have to enroll in autopay and paperless billing to get their 4G internet for $60 a month. Current customers have to be enrolled in autopay as well.
Plus there’s a $10 a month device payment plan, which you can’t get out of because you have to use Verizon’s router, and customers are required to pay a total of $240 over the course of 24 months for that router. So, existing Verizon customers could pay a maximum of $60 a month for 4G internet (in addition to whatever the pay for other services) and non-Verizon customers could pay a max of $80. 4G internet speeds typically average between 25-50 Mbps (download) depending on network conditions. Compared to other broadband providers in the same areas, like Xfinity, customers get a slightly better deal with Xfinity if they don’t rent equipment.
Using Zillow to find the most rural address possible in Savannah, GA, which is about 20 miles outside of the city center, Xfinity offered me a $20 a month plan for up to 25 Mbps, which becomes $43 a month after the 1-year agreement discount ends as long as autopay is applied. The next tier is a 100 Mbps plan for $40 a month, or $63 after the 1-year agreement discount ends. Xfinity equipment rental fee is $14 a month, but you don’t have to use their modem and router. You can buy your own.
However, Verizon doesn’t have a data cap with its new internet plan. Xfinity charges an extra $30 a month for unlimited data but sets its data cap at 1.2 TB. Verizon only offers 30 days of free set-up support from Asurionl, a private company that provides insurance and tech support for electronic devices.
Plugging in other Savannah addresses located in the city center into Verizon’s website shows that 4G LTE home internet is indeed only for those living in rural areas, so it seems like Verizon is being true its word. Only 77.9% of residents in Savannah have an internet subscription, according to the US Census Bureau, and 22.9% of Savannah residents live in poverty. Verizon’s new plan seems like it can definitely address the issue of a lack of internet access in rural areas, but for those living in poverty, its 4G home internet might still be too expensive.