Verizon Holiday Giveaways Could Be Heading for Legal Extinction

NEWS ANALYSIS: Verizon will celebrate Thanksgiving with a bunch of giveaways even to the subscribers of other mobile carriers. But Verizon's open handedness might not last very long.

Verizon Connection

Marquett Smith, Verizon's president for the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., region was enthusiastic when he described what his company is giving away to mobile device users during Thanksgiving week.

I suspect the reason for the excitement was because Verizon is breaking new ground by not insisting that the giveaway be limited to subscribers, and in fact is free to anyone on any wireless carrier. He was right that this is pretty unusual.

"It's a great way to thank customers for their loyalty," Smith said, "And to non-customers, look what you're missing."

The stuff Verizon Wireless is giving away starting Nov. 26, which the mobile carrier is calling "Connection Day," includes free half-hour WiFi sessions at airports using Boingo, half-hour free WiFi sessions in flight with Gogo Technologies and free WiFi on JetBlue flights for the duration of the flight. No word on whether the Jet Blue offer includes the multi-hour durations while passengers are stranded on the runway waiting for arrival at the gate.

Verizon's deal also includes such things as a week of the Pandora One music streaming service, free editions of Conde Nast publications and free products from Apple and Amazon including Audible books from Amazon. The full list is available on Verizon's Connection Day Website.

The reasoning behind these offers, according to Smith, is that the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day in the U.S. Verizon is providing these things as a way to make the trip less arduous. You can even stream free movies from Verizon FiOS, assuming your data cap will handle it. For Verizon Wireless users, there's an extra free gigabyte of shared data to help cover this.

If this sounds a lot like what T-Mobile is doing for music streaming by allowing mobile users to stream music free from data limits and charges, you're right. The biggest difference is that T-Mobile's giveaway is only for that company's subscribers and it's only for music. But it's not limited to a single day, either.

Of course, many of the things that Verizon is giving away for free on Connection Day also last for more than a day. But sadly, the free goodies that Verizon is offering for Connection Day may not be back at the same time next year. The same may be true for T-Mobile's free music deal. The reason is not because of a lack of desire on the part of either Verizon or T-Mobile. Instead, you may have the Federal Communications Commission to thank.

One little-known facet of the net neutrality rules being kicked around at the FCC and the White House are rules that would limit preferential treatment for some traffic.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...