Help, I’ve reached a dead end with my Verizon iPhone

iphoneQuestion: I’m at a dead end and feel I have been tossed aside by the corporate giant that is Verizon in hopes that I will just become mute and complacent. I will not!

I have been a Verizon customer for approximately 10 years. For the past two years, I have had an iPhone that uses their 3g network for data. My relationship with Verizon was fine up until this point.

The area in which I live is highly seasonal and the population grows by 3.5 million in the summer months. Verizon’s 3g network can not handle this and I do not get data coverage from Friday nights until Monday morning all summer long. This issue is even prevalent in the off season when there are a lot of people around (malls at the holiday, etc.). However, I test my phone next to someone with another carrier and their phones work fine, no matter where.

I have been complaining about the issue to Verizon and have been escalated to the executive office after filing a complaint with the FCC. My work life is dependent on my phone and I simply want out of my contract since their service is not up to par with the competition in this area.

In my complaints, I have been through troubleshooting and engineer field troubleshooting. I am consistently told by Verizon that their service is working fine and I am doing something wrong. It is always either the topography’s fault, my residence’s fault or the weather’s fault.

I am literally shaking I am so upset with the amount of time I have wasted trying to get them to admit there is an issue. Can you help? — Jim Howell, Sandusky, Ohio

Answer: Obviously, Verizon should have provided you with the service it promised. If it couldn’t, it should have let you out of your contract.

Unfortunately, the problem didn’t show up until long after you started your cellular service with Verizon (you have 14 days to get out of the contract without penalties). But Verizon’s one-sided contract, which seems to bind you, but not it, to a year of indentured wireless service, does in fact go two ways. If it can’t continue to provide the service it promises, it must let you out of the agreement.

In reviewing the contract, you might think otherwise. “Wireless devices use radio transmissions, so unfortunately you can’t get Service if your device isn’t in range of a transmission signal,” it warns. “And please be aware that even within your Coverage Area, many things can affect the availability and quality of your Service, including network capacity, your device, terrain, buildings, foliage and weather.”

But the contract assumes that eventually you will be able to establish a meaningful connection — a connection that appears to have eluded you with your Verizon iPhone.

It’s reasonable to expect a customer to go through the troubleshooting process, where you test the equipment and the connection to make sure everything is working correctly. But it sounds as if you did that, and still came up short.

You appealed to someone at the executive office (all email addresses at Verizon are but representatives refused to offer a meaningful written response. They asked that you call them, which puts you at a disadvantage. A paper trail is an important thing when you’re trying to resolve a customer service problem.

Before I got involved in your case, I suggested sending one more email to Verizon’s executive office. This time, you copied me on the email. A representative responded immediately, asking you to call the company yet again.

You did, and Verizon released you from your contract.

Do wireless phone companies overpromise their bandwidth capabilities?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • TonyA_says

    Hey, can you hear me now? This was why 4G or LTE was created. 3G has just too much network congestion. I read and understand that Verizon had outages on 4G causing many devices to fallback to using 3G and thus causing 3G to crawl even slower. Do you have wifi in your area? At&t has wifi in malls and places in some areas so you can connect that way. Wonder if Verizon does the same thing?

  • William_Leeper

    Lol AT&T told me when I moved that I had excellent service if I walked 250 yards north of my residence! I politely informed them if I wanted to stand in my barn to talk on the phone I would just get a landline. After that, service isn’t great, but service is definitely better. Just amazes me what they try to get away with. Originally they told me that “it wasn’t their fault I moved there and I should find a new house!”

  • technomage1

    Honestly – it sounds like a problem with his model of phone. Regardless, not having 3G service throughout the weekend is unacceptable. They should have resolved this a lot sooner.

  • BillCCC

    Companies always base their ads on the best possible conditions.

    From the article is appears that this problem has been going on for two years. His contract couldn’t have had too much time remaining.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    My thoughts exactly. My husband and I both have Verizon. He has 3G until mid-March; I’ve had 4G for a year now. I can get reception and data where he can’t. Verizon does (or used to) have access to wi-fi as you suggest, but it’s been a year since I’ve had to use it, so can not advise as to its current state.

    Oh – and my 4G works just fine in Sandusky! (Nice town, but traffic is crazy!)

  • jerryatric

    If you think it’s bad in the U.S. I invite you to Canada’s wireless mess. 3 major players, 3 year contracts ( all 1 sided in favour of the supplier) & you cannot “free up” your phone. It’s locked with the carrier.

  • disqus_A6K3VBf8Zn

    Do firms tend to overpromise? Does the sun shine? Looking ahead, the American Airlnes US Air merger will made the parent company rich and the public will be shafted. Down the line we can look to the more mergers in the cell phone industry, resulting in a very powerful firms setting their prices & terms. Those with similar problems should not wait for Humpty Dumpty to fall.

  • TonyA_says

    If the city grows by 3.5 million people during warm season, then network engineers have their hands tied. Is the company going to invest a lot of money for more towers for a seasonal demand on an old 3G network technology? Verizon just spent big bucks to roll out 4G, maybe he should simply upgrade his equipment?
    Sometimes more common sense solves problems.

  • technomage1

    Or they could have upgraded him for free, or at least met him in the middle. I’ve noticed a marked degradation of my 3G service from 6 months ago. Luckily for me on 1 Mar I can upgrade.

  • Bill___A

    You don’t have to have a 3 year contract, they offer 1 and 2 year, and month to month. On Telus, for example, they will unlock your device after 6 months for $50. Besides, as far as I know, unlike the US, it is legal to get your phone unlocked by a third party.
    They charge too much, especially for roaming, but it is not a mess for the reasons you state. Besides which, the phones work…which seems to be more than can be said for many areas of the USA. I travel a lot, I know. Chris has just been to Canada, I wonder who he was on and how he found the coverage.

  • James Gerber

    In my case it’s Sprint. Their web site says the MINIMUM download speed for 3G is 600kbps. I get 5 bars of service in my condo but the maximum I get is 350kbps. About 25% of the time it is under 100kbps and most things I do time out before finishing. Sprint says “tough luck” and wait for 4G which will be finished in Philadelphia mid-late 2014!!!

  • SoBeSparky

    I too am located in a tourism area, Miami Beach where the BCS Championship, SoBe Wine & Food Festival, Super Bowl, Art Basil and dozens of other special events draw tens of thousands. Every month there is at least one major draw, in addition to our normal daytime tourism and year-round 75%-occupancy hotels.

    Weekend data reception can be hit or miss, as the carriers refuse to provide for well-known potential overloads of the cellular system. Voice can be fairly reliable, but data is highly unreliable.

    This is not a fault with equipment, 3G/4G technology, geography or weather. I have tried several carriers, different technologies and equipment. This is plain out poor planning so that cell customers cannot possibly be served adequately.

    Some public utilities must plan for peak usage. Apparently cell providers do not.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    It’s interesting that for all the stuff they’ve tried he never mentions them swapping out his phone. That should have been one of the first steps in trying to fix the problem. He could have something wrong with his particular phone even if the model overall was perfectly fine. It doesn’t sound like they’ve really tried everything to help him.

  • emanon256

    I voted yes, but I warn the OP, the grass isn’t any greener on the other side of the fence. I have AT&T and whenever I am in a busy area, or there is an event near by, data pretty much grinds to a halt. I used to have a sprint mobile hot spot, and had the same problems. Perhaps the OP could get WiFi, whats how I use data on my phone.

    It may be a dumb question, but I am curious why the population of Sandusky Ohio grows by 3.5 Million in the summer?

    ETA: I figured it out. Cedar Point.

  • cjr001

    Another case where Verizon cared more about bad publicity (once your name got attached, Christopher) than their long time customer. There’s no reason at all for this to be SOP.

  • Lucien


    With large companies it’s not how persistent you are, but getting to the righr contact. If you manage to get through to the executive office, you’ve often solved the the problem. This is the sheltered area, because you usually can find an executive who ,not only has the ability, but often can’t resist saying no….that’s why the sheltering.

  • mbods

    SO happy you were able to help and make us aware of these practices. WHY is it so difficult to offer good customer service? I just don’t understand why a company would want to upset a long time customer to the point where they need an advocate to intervene and get bad publicity to boot!

  • jerryatric

    They offer the best “deal” on 3 years. Just got back from 2 months travelling in the states, & had turned off text & data. Guess what? Rec’d. messages from Telus no less extolling their great rates for roaming & texting – AND CHARGED ME! Complained & gave credit to another cell # ( my wife’s account.) who does not even have roaming or texting. AND never even took her phone. Then came the best yet, they finally credit me & charge my wife’s cell for texting. I think it’s been finally cleared up. AND the phone does not work everywhere. Your right the roaming costs are outrageous, but text & data charges while travelling in the U.S. are out of reason. How much does it cost to unlock your phone in the U.S.?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    It’s free to unlock your phone – once your contract for that particular phone has expired. A law recently went into effect to make it illegal to unlock a phone while under contract. I have an old Blackberry and a new smartphone. I called Verizon and they gave me the code to unlock my Blackberry, since that Blackberry is no longer under contract. One of my sons works for a cell company near Wall Street (in NYC). He says that he gets asked every single day, and sometimes multiple times in one day, to unlock phones for tourists from other countries. He’s not allowed to do it.

    While traveling outside the US, I purchase an add-on plan to my current plan that allows me to have 100Mb worth of text and data in a 30 day period, around $25 – $30. I set my phone on wi-fi as much as I can and don’t incur the data roaming charges. You might see if your carrier has something similar. My backup plan is to take my Blackberry along with me and then put in a local SIM card that allows a set amount of calls, text and data. I didn’t have to do that on my last trip, but it’s always good to be prepared.

    Good luck!

  • technomage1

    That was my general line of thinking as well. Does this impact only Verizon customers? No, then does it impact other phones like his? No, then does swapping out the phone work?

    I know when my phone was unable to charge, I was able to troubleshoot the problem down to the outlet part of the charging unit. What was funny was when I called Verizon customer service, I detailed out for the guy step by step what I’d done to determine the problem and it was almost exactly what their troubleshooting guide suggested. The call was pretty short since I knew exactly what the problem was. It always amazes me how some people (and I’m not saying he was like this) are unable to do this. I guess it just boils down to mechanical ability.

  • Fedor Pikus

    When I was in the same situation with T-Mobile, the first thing they tried is to swap out the SIM card for a newer one. This immediately restored the quality of the service.

  • John

    Verizon as a company is horrible to deal with in my experience. I was with them for over eleven years but when I got upside down on cash they refused to work with me. Instead they cancelled my account and turned me in to the credit bureau.. in spite of the fact that I’d told them I would pay. I will NEVER do business with them again.. and no more contracts for me either. I went with Virgin Mobile (started by Sir. Richard Branson) and I love it. I get as good or better service with them, there are no contracts, and I enjoy three times the minutes for a third less money. What’s not to like about that? Yes I do have to buy my own phone.. but in the long run you actually save a good deal of money over Verizon.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey Emanon, check this article out:

    Boost backhaul: When LTE arrives, it will require prodigious backhaul on the order of 300-500 Mbps per cell site. Typical copper T1 lines feeding a 2G or 3G cell tower can deliver 1.5 Mbps per circuit, so a backhaul of 200-400 T1 lines would be required to implement LTE to a copper-fed site. That’s a highly unlikely scenario due to both cost and copper infrastructure availability. Much more likely is that, in the near future, every cell tower will be fed by fiber or microwave backhaul. While both have their advantages, fiber has proved so far to be the most rugged and reliable. Microwave can be susceptible to interference, weather and other natural phenomena, such as sunspots, while fiber is not. Even if a mobile operator is not quite ready to implement LTE at a particular cell site, now is the time to prepare. The first step to LTE is upgrading the backhaul, and operators headed in that direction should be talking to their backhaul provider now about replacing copper lines with higher bandwidth technologies.

    I had no idea an LTE cell tower needs this much bandwidth. Where the hell are they getting this in Sandusky, Ohio? It’s about 66 miles away from Cleveland where the data centers are.

  • TonyA_says

    His statement about the ballooning of Sandusky, OH population (normal 26,000) to 3.5 mil during vacation season says it all. He clearly knew his data throughput problem was based on too much demand on his 3G network especially during weekends. So it does not matter what 3G device he uses on the same network. It is simply over congested.

  • Bill___A

    Thanks to Jeanne in NE for answering a lot of it. I don’t know about getting phones unlocked in the US.

    I’ve been travelling to the UK mostly the last couple or three years, and my unlocked phone works great there, it is cheap. I don’t have a good solution for when in the US…I pay for the roaming package, use a lot of wi fi.

  • TonyA_says

    Fedor, could it be that your phone was being throttled and changing the SIM started the count to zero?

  • jerryatric

    In Canada, with Telus they charge about $50 for 30 days while travelling in the U.S.But what you get is instead of $3.00 per MB you pay only $1.00. Outrageous! But even when you decline & block it they continue to send texts touting their great deals AND charging you. I guess they hope you don’t notice & pay up.

  • emanon256

    That’s incredible! I had know idea they needed that much data. Also really interesting, I had no idea how they could divide up the antennas in such a way to make smaller cells. I have always found technology amazing. Ist changed a lot since I first learned about it.

    My dad used to work for a telecom when cell phones were just getting on the market and he said a lot were using microwave back then. I didn’t know they still used it, it had high latency issues for voice, so I imagine it would be bad for general data usage, but probably great for streaming video. I didn’t realize how many people use their cell phones to stream video, I really never try and canceled NetFlix.

    I woudl say fiber is the way to go. But the initial cost and work is tremendous. When I worked at the university, it took as 2 years to get our fiber installed start to finish. We had enough bandwidth because NetFlix wasn’t around then.

    As an interesting side note, I was at a film festival last night in a low population part of town, in a small facility, where there are not usually many people. Yet there were 400 or so crammed into an auditorium. I had my LTE phone, and my friend had his 3G phone. Both on AT&T and both had full bars. I could not get any internet sevrice at all, and his was fine. I woudl guess a lot of peopel must have hat LTE and were overwhelming the network.

  • jpp42

    The problem with bringing fibre to cellular base stations is they tend to be located at the tops of hills – in rolling or hilly country at least – which is often not along the main fibre runs. It can be very expensive and many miles long to bring a fibre run to the top of a hill where cell towers are. Microwave links are much cheaper to install – they do require line of sight between stations, but that is usually available at these hilltop installations.

  • TonyA_says

    This means the a lot of this 4G/LTE stuff will depend on back haul. The bandwidth demand of the cell towers are similar to those of midsize webhosting company that may need an OC12 connection (to a backbone). I think many new smartphone owners will be disappointed. It’s hard to believe many cell sites out there will have this kind of capacity any time soon.

  • Joe Farrell

    “Capacity” issues are the issue here. Verizon needs to serve its customers – so the easy answer for them is “there are too many people trying to access our network, its not our problem.” Yet they have to see the demand. They have the ability to see the season demand here – the tech they need to install costs very little to add bandwidth.

    Verizon has not added ANY capacity to their land based system since 2010. If you are waiting for Fios – you will wait a long time – they are not improving or building out their system.

    On the wireless side their corporate focus is to build out areas that are not being served – not to add capacity where it is needed seasonally.

    The guy got out of his contract- good for Verizon but their regular corporate customer service needed to resolve this – not the execs- that’s not THEIR job.

    Now – given the seasonal demand – is AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile any better? I seriously doubt it.

  • Marco Martinez

    I know this maybe off topic, but I am really, really curious! what town grows to 3.5 million people. That would worry more than not having cell service!! :-) that would require A LOT of lodging!

  • Marco Martinez

    Wait… I think I just figured it out! Maybe the OP means 3.5 million spread over several months in the summer. That would make a little more sense… :-) Your travel blog is fun… you discover new things!

  • Destination360

    They just let me out of my contract after years with Verizon based on poor coverage of where i moved. Switched to tmob the speed to slower but no dropped calls.