Soaring cellular data costs

I live and work in an area 50 miles south of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and 20 miles east of Dover, Delaware in a rural part of New Jersey not served by cables or phone wires. We used to have regular telephone wires that were used for basic internet in the 1990s but service was always spotty and then after hurricane Sandy in 2012 the telephone company announced that it will no longer maintain the wire service here. The wire to my former home/office land line telephone remains disconnected and blowing in the wind, unattended by Verizon after many calls. I tried HughesNet satellite internet for two years in 2013-2015 but the signal was terrible and unreliable. The only remaining option for internet service is cellular data. I have a separate cellular data plan for my small accounting and aquaculture businesses (an odd combination, I know). Family members have their own cellular plans not connected with mine.

Lately I notice that my data usage and bill is skyrocketing at a tremendous pace.  My usage increased from under 6GB per month only 3 years ago to over 60GB per month now. The increased usage is visible month-to-month lately. I do not use streaming services like music or movies, however I do use social media like Facebook and LinkedIn and web sites with streaming advertising like Dow Jones, Reuters, etc. My current total bill with Verizon Wireless is $465. That caused me to stop and investigate.

If I project the current rate of data consumption growth curve at the same cost per GB then I could exceed $1,000 per month within about 18 months. That is scary.

I do not understand why data usage keeps growing month after month even though my usage habits have remained basically stable for many years. This blog post focuses primarily on the service options and costs and not so much on the cause of the higher data use.

My two primary means of controlling data usage are: 1) to unplug the PC’s USB modem when I leave my desk, and 2) use Puffin browser to save data use on the iPad. Even with these measures, I run about 2GB data usage per day lately.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon charges $225 for 50GB of data and $15 per GB above that. That is a base rate of $4.50 per GB or about $10 per day for me. It is expensive but I can live with it. I’ve used the Verizon usage analytics for insight but it provides me with little actionable information. The only pattern I see is that more news sites, help and training services are likely to be on video than on print media now. When I visit Wall Street Journal, for example, I may be reading a print article but there is a video ad playing on the side of the screen. Facebook seems to have the same thing. I suspect this ancillary video advertising on the web is the primary reason that my data use is increasing.

Verizon’s only response is to offer to sell me more and more expensive data.

Other than the fact that I do not understand the changing data trends and the new services that they offer (switching me from a personal to a small business plan, for example), I have no problem with Verizon. We lose service a few times per month but it always returns within hours.


I considered switching to ATT. After 30+ minutes on chat support with ATT sales we concluded that they would be willing to buy out the Verizon contract for my smartphone only but not my other four cellular data lines (business phone modem, travel usb modem, iPad and flip phone). The ATT unlimited data plan is $100 per month which is more than Verizon for this single line alone (I pay Verizon $310 for 50GB for the 5 lines and this phone uses about 10GB or about $62 of my total data bill). I would also need to buy Direct TV service (that I don’t need) where the basic rate is $50 per month plus or else pay $15 per GB for data usage over 6GB. Neither option is attractive.

However, my main concern is that ATT admits that they throttle data speeds back to 2G (unusable for my work) for users over 6GB per line. That is disturbing. If you are paying an arm and a leg for data, why can’t you get it at high speed? So unless I’m missing something, I don’t understand why any high usage customer would switch to ATT.

Other options

I rely on neighbors and visitors to report the quality of their cellular phone service and data signal strength at my location. I am not aware of any other service that has a strong reliable signal here.

In the end, I conclude that my only viable option is to stay with Verizon but find ways to cut back on data usage. I expect that will be increasingly difficult in this “connected” age.


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