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Business and Economy

Verizon Alters Plans To Drop Down East Cellphone Subscribers, But Questions Linger

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Verizon Wireless says it intends to resolve customer concerns in the wake of recently announced plans to drop more than 200 subscribers Down East. But some affected customers say they still have lots of questions.

Two weeks ago Verizon Wireless announced it would drop the out-of-network subscribers it claimed were racking up excessive roaming charges on uncapped data plans in Washington and eastern Hancock counties. But in a press release issued Friday, Verizon Director of Communications Carolyn Schamberger said the company is reconsidering aspects of its original announcement at the behest of Maine’s public advocate and others.

“We’re committed to ensuring first responders in these areas keep their Verizon service,” Schamberger said. “If you’ve received a letter in the past two weeks, we’re giving you more time to switch providers — you now have until Dec. 1, 2017.”

Schamberger’s statement also ensures that Down East customers who have no alternative wireless providers in their area can switch to a Verizon plan that offers less data — as long as they do so by Dec. 1. That gives affected subscribers more than six weeks beyond the initial deadline of Oct. 17.

But Winter Harbor Police Chief Danny Mitchell says Verizon’s latest response raises more questions than it answers.

“It says they’re going to keep them going, yeah, I can stay going as a police chief, I can stay on their plan, but this kind of tells me, now do I have to switch to a different plan, a smaller plan?” Mitchell says. “I don’t have the unlimited plan, I have 12 gigabytes. This kind of muddies the water for me.”

It’s also unclear what effect this will have on agreements between Verizon Wireless and Wireless Partners LLC, the Portland-based company that worked with Verizon to expand wireless service Down East three years ago with the construction of 13 new communications towers.

Jason Sulham, a spokesman for Wireless Partners, says Verizon’s latest offer to delay the termination of Down East customer accounts IS a step in the right direction. But he wants to know whether the company will also lift its prohibition on new customers, and who will be included as a “first responder.”

“Also we’d really like an answer to why Verizon continues to represent that these networks are part of the Verizon network on their coverage maps and when they market plans to prospective customers, but then claim that they are roaming when they kicked them off,” he says.

Sulham says until these and other questions can be addressed, Wireless Partners LLC will continue to advocate on behalf of those negatively affected by Verizon’s decision.