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Verizon Defends Being Awful to Its Customers

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Watch out, AT&T (T)! It appears that Verizon (VZ) is gunning for your Worst National Carrier crown!

It was barely a month ago that AT&T came under fire by customers -- and Fox News -- for throttling download speeds for those on unlimited data plans once they approach the arbitrarily designated 2GB/month limit. And rather than offer an apology, eat some crow, and lift the throttling cap to appease angry iPhone (AAPL) and Android (GOOG) users, AT&T defended its position and claimed via spokesperson Mark Siegel that it wasn't that big of a deal. "There's a very good chance you wouldn't be slowed," Siegel told the New York Times.

That is, if you're one of the very, very rare few who regularly enjoy YouTube, iCloud, Pandora (P), Netflix (NFLX), or any other streaming service where average, everyday use will push visitors closer and closer to that 2GB mark. Of course, you can just follow AT&T's suggestion and switch from the unlimited plan to the "higher" 3GB/month plan which... costs the same $30 that the original unlimited plan costs. Wait, what? Seems as if AT&T's network can handle a user's 3GB per month, then surpassing 2GB on an unlimited plan shouldn't be a problem.

But what do I know? I'm not a multibillion-dollar telcom.

However, AT&T isn't the only carrier determined to undermine the rights of its subscribers. Verizon has also defended its awful practices to its customers, but at least in this case, it had the decency to only screw over Android users.

Partnered with manufacturers like Motorola (MMI), Samsung, HTC, and LG, a pure Android experience without skins and bloatware has become exceptionally rare -- relegated to Samsung's Nexus line, but even that was subjected to Verizon's meddling hand when it killed Google Wallet. Typically, between the carrier and OEM, the original Android OS is compromised and buried beneath a skin -- like Motorola's BLUR or HTC's Sense -- so the user doesn't get to experience the untouched Android OS the way the original developers intended. Add a glut of carrier-installed apps that users can't uninstall and you have a less-than-perfect scenario.

But Android users do have the option to root their devices -- the equivalent to jailbreaking an iPhone -- and swap out a skinned OS for a ROM that runs a pure Android OS like Ice Cream Sandwich, as well as finally ridding the phone from unused bloatware apps. Another bonus: No more waiting for manufacturers to roll out the latest and greatest version of Android.

The problem is -- despite some manufacturers acquiescing to customer demand and delivering devices with unlocked bootloaders and making for an easy root -- Motorola has been a prominent holdout and remains hellbent on denying users root-access to their devices. Many pointed fingers at Motorola as being behind this decision, and for good reason, but a recent letter uncovered by Droid Life shows that Verizon holds a lion's share of the blame.

In a letter to the FCC, Fred Powell -- executive analyst to Verizon's customer service -- explains that it's for the user's own good that the carrier keeps him from having full access to his phone. After all, how could a customer experience Verizon's dependable customer service if he's -- gasp! -- altered his phone in some way?

"Please be advised that Verizon Wireless has established a standard of excellence in customer experience with our branded devices and customer service," Powell writes. "There is an expectation that if a customer has a question, they can call Verizon Wireless for answers that help them maximize their enjoyment and use of their wireless phone. Depending on the device, an open boot loader could prevent Verizon Wireless from providing the same level of customer experience and support because it would allow users to change the phone or otherwise modify the software, and, potentially, negatively impact how the phone connects to the network."

Because, yes, a user who has rooted his phone and loaded a ROM of his choosing is just the type of customer who would turn to Verizon directly for assistance. And never mind the situations where the only way a Verizon device connects to its networks correctly is by rooting the damn thing.

Powell continues, "The addition of unapproved software could also negatively impact the wireless experience for other customers. It is always a delicate balance for any company to manage the technology choices we make for our branded devices and the requests of a few who may want a different device experience." Adding, "We always review our technology choices to ensure that we provide the best solution for as many customers as possible."

In other words, rooting a phone makes it easier to remove the proprietary apps that feed directly into Verizon's coffers and enable services that cost extra, like tethering and Wi-Fi hot spotting, for free. But since Verizon wouldn't be making any money off those services -- even if a customer's data plan is considered "unlimited" -- bootloaders will remain locked and root access will remain denied.

Luckily for the end user, you can't keep a good hacker community down.

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