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Verizon modifies unlimited data plans, changes streaming perks

Customers can now add-on streaming services like Apple Music and Disney Plus for an extra fee, where once they were offered for free.

Customers can now add-on streaming services like Apple Music and Disney Plus for an extra fee, where once they were offered for free.

A Verizon Wireless retail store in Griffin, Spalding County, Georgia.
A Verizon Wireless retail store in Griffin, Spalding County, Georgia. (Photo by Michael Rivera via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Verizon is updating its unlimited data wireless plans with the goal of making things simpler for customers, but those who are used to freebies like streaming video and music services are soon going to have to pay for them.

On Tuesday, Verizon lifted the curtain on the new unlimited data plans, which it calls “My Plan,” that the company promises is “simple. Really. Super simple.”

“Verizon is putting an end to bloated bundles and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to wireless plans,” a Verizon spokesperson said in a press release. “Now, customers can pay for only what they need. You’re in charge. You decide what goes into your plan and what stays out. You choose how it changes—you’re never locked in.”

Verizon said the move is intended to streamline its unlimited data plans in a way that makes the price point and perks clearer to customers. In reality, the updated plans remove freebies like access to Disney Plus and Apple Music, and charges customers for access to those services that many got included with their older plans.

Fast Facts

New Verizon Unlimited Data Pricing

Verizon’s new My Plan comes in two tiers: An Unlimited Welcome version that offers access to its 4G LTE and 5G networks, and an Unlimited Plus that unlocks access to its milli-meter wave 5G network (which typically offers faster download and upload speeds).

  • Unlimited Welcome costs $65 for one line, or $27 per line for five or more lines.
  • Unlimited Plus costs $80 for one line, or $42 per line for five or more lines.

Pay for Perks

While Verizon’s older unlimited wireless plans offered free access to Disney Plus, Apple Music and Google Arcade, the new My Plans requires customers to pay a separate fee for these perks and others. Each perk is priced lower when purchased through Verizon compared to how much they would cost if purchased separately.

  • Disney Bundle costs $10 a month (normally $15)
  • Apple One costs $10 a month (normally $17)
  • Apple Music Family costs $10 a month (normally $17)
  • Walmart Plus costs $10 a month (normally $13)
  • Smartwatch Data costs $10 a month (normally $20)
  • TravelPass costs $10 a month for 3 days (normally $30)
  • 2 TB cloud storage costs $10 a month (Normally $15)
  • 100 GB hotspot data costs $10 a month (normally $45)

The Disney Bundle includes the commercial-free version of Disney Plus, the ad-supported version of Hulu and ESPN Plus. Walmart Plus comes with free access to the ad-supported tier of Paramount Plus and trials to Spotify and SiriusXM.

The Fine Print

  • The Disney Bundle includes ads on Hulu and ESPN Plus, but not on Disney Plus.
  • Taxes and fees are not included on any of its My Plus plans.
  • My Plus requires enrollment in AutoPay and paperless billing.
  • Customers can’t use credit cards with AutoPay, unless they use a Verizon Visa Card.
  • The new plans officially launch May 18, at which points Verizon subscribers can switch.

Verizon says its My Plan come in two tiers: A deprioritized plan called Unlimited Welcome that costs $65 a month and a plan that includes premium data and access to Verizon’s millimeter wave 5G network called Unlimited Plus that costs $80 a month. Customers who add multiple lines will save on the overall monthly price — five or more lines cost just $42 a month per line on Unlimited Plus and $27 a month per line on Unlimited Welcome. None of those prices include taxes and fees, which will undoubtedly raise the price of any plan a customer chooses.

From there, customers choose which wireless perks they want to add — from discounted access to Disney Plus, Apple Music Family, Apple One and Walmart Plus, to features like mobile hotspot data and 2 terabytes of cloud storage. Each perk is $10 more per month.

The new My Plan tiers require customers to enroll in automatic payments with a debit card, checking account or Verizon Visa Card (read: no credit cards beyond the one Verizon offers). Enrollment in paperless billing is also required.

The end result of the new My Plan tiers is that existing customers who are used to paying for unlimited wireless data with free access to Disney Plus, Apple Music and hotspot data will ultimately have to pay for each of those features if they switch plans. That will lead to an immediate price hike for customers.

Verizon still thinks the plans are a good deal. In a press release, the company took a veiled swipe at T-Mobile, which offers similar unlimited wireless plans but couples them with free access to streaming service, hotspot data and other perks at no extra cost.

“Others talk about phone ‘freedom,’ but in reality, they’re just pushing customers into their most-expensive, bloated plans,” a Verizon spokesperson claimed. “[Those plans] are limiting, don’t allow for changes, and where customers end up paying for things they don’t want or need. With My Plan, however, you get what you want, exactly how you want it. So everything is on your terms with the flexibility to change it up anytime.”

The new My Plan tiers seem to break a trend among big wireless phone providers, which have long sought to court subscribers with the promises of free streaming services and other perks if they switch. But those freebies have the potential to eat into a company’s bottom line because, while streaming and other services are free to subscribers, the company ultimately winds up covering the cost.

For this reason, companies have started pulling back on some of the services they’ve offered. T-Mobile, for instance, now relegates a free Netflix perk to its highest service tiers. It also recently changed a free Apple TV Plus perk for some of its subscribers, offering customers of its lower plans one year for free where they previously had ongoing access to the streaming TV service (customers of higher-priced plans are promised Apple TV Plus for as long as they are subscribed to that tier).

Likewise, AT&T has eased off a promotion of free access to HBO Max for most of its subscribers, though a few of their wireless tiers still offer a version of HBO Max that includes advertisements.

Verizon, though, is the first to move away from free perks entirely and charge customers for the privilege of adding them to their plans, albeit at a discount. The company claims the move is intended to give customers more control over the features they want, but, in reality, it’s meant as a way for Verizon to grab more cash from subscribers who already pay for some of the most-expensive wireless phone service in the country.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).