Too Big to Succeed or Why I'm Leaving Verizon Wireless

Back in the day...

I acquired my first cell phone in 1997 from Bell Atlantic Mobile, now Verizon Wireless.

For 17 years, Verizon provided (IMHO) the best cell service available here in the United States. From the tip of Cape Cod MA to Ft. Lauderdale to Phoenix AZ and all points in between, I always had the best signal available at the time.

Don't get me wrong, I still remember when the ability to make a phone call was available only in very specific areas - before LTE, before TXT and before "mobile web" (remember WAP?). In the earlier days, cell phone service was barely able to support phone calls in the everyday places only a short distance from small cities or major highways.

In fact, the very reason I used to justify having a cell phone back then was so that I could reach my wife while she was vending at a local flea market just an hour north of our home in Bridgeport (good old Elephant's Trunk, for you locals). She would carry the phone on Sundays so we could keep in touch - and of course, I could indulge my yen for gadgets the other 6 days of the week.

Over time, cell phones and cell service kept improving year after year. Coverage expanded, costs came down, call quality improved, and then the internet eventually became mobile and ubiquitous. Aside: I still remember the day I opted to trade in my unlimited data for unlimited talk & text... not foreseeing the flip between voice and data until it was too late.

Through all these changes and technology improvements - Verizon stayed on top, and I never encountered any reason to jump ship. Verizon's service and coverage was just the best around, by far.

However, Verizon had something else very very right: customer service. (I'm a bit of a maven for good customer service).

Throughout all these years I have been an extremely happy customer; and I love telling them so - every time I have a reason to talk to them, I have always found satisfaction by the end of each call.

To keep it real: I definitely had some bad spells with Verizon. And each time, I let them know. It's just who I am - I like to be very vocal with service providers, on both sides of the fence: when things go wrong and when they go well.

So, what happened?

After my sincere compliments above, I hope you're wondering this.

What could possibly have gone wrong? What has Verizon done that has compelled me to begin seeking services elsewhere?

The Verizon enterprise has steered its ship into the crowd of centralized service providers who have become too big to succeed.

Too Big to Succeed

I should explain what I mean by: Too Big to Succeed

Obviously it's a take-off on the 2008 government bailouts of (quasi) private corporations deemed "too big to fail" - and it is not just size - as I believe it is possible for well-run private organizations of any size to be worthy of their success. And, of course, organizations of any size can be evil as well.

Verizon has fallen prey to the temptation of attempting to become another Big Data merchant - what Jaron Lanier calls "Siren Servers" in his book Who Owns the Future.

You know today's common refrain: they are collecting and re-marketing their customers' (our) personal information, they have been cooperating with NSA spying, they've begun monkeying with the HTML content that I request - e.g. messing with HTTP headers and planting web-bugs for their own data services to sell out the back door - etc.

Finally, the last straw was their customer service. It began with configuring their phones to re-direct calls to customer service to their built-in and non-removable app that lead down a rabbit hole of undesirable options - making it impossible for me to engage one of their great people. I could see that I no longer mattered to them as their customer.

This took place about a year ago, and since then I've begun to look into open source software, open source hardware, privacy, and ultimately peer-to-peer (p2p) and mesh networking - a sort of back to the future approach to re-decentralized communications, like the way the old internet used to be.

Moving Forward

I started writing this post about a year ago when I first became determined to leave Verizon. As you might observe from the tone of this article - much has changed in my thinking since then - and for sure, it's taken time to research and transition myself away - while not disrupting the rest of my family, nor my current source of income, etc.


I know they're not perfect, but I've chosen T-Mobile as my next provider. My choice is based on no-contract service, emphasis on lower-cost data, and moving toward an unlocked device-friendly environment. I was concerned about T-Mobile's ability to provide reliable voice, and they have the greatest program to overcome that fear: the T-Mobile Test Drive. I participated in this program, and that enabled me to really test drive their network. Since I'm now a customer - you know the result. Again, they're not perfect - they have less tower coverage where I am (northeastern USA) - and I've found spots where they drop calls - I'm staying with them in exchange for the other benefits, and happily so.

And this provider change is really only a first step, on the way to what I believe a much different communication paradigm - a post-internet world of global human-to-human digital communication.

What are your thoughts? Engage me on twitter @jmsmcfrlnd or email me at {hello} [at] {jamesmcfarland} {dot} {com}