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Cell Contract Early Termination Fee? How about $0?

One of the most honest ways to exit from a wireless carrier’s iron-clad service contract is to show that their service in and around your home or work is inferior.  This is especially true if, before you signed up for service, you visited the carrier’s website or local office and saw the pretty maps that assert their claimed coverage around your home, work, or both.

For several examples of such maps, visit AT&T’s site or Verizon’s site, but be sure to check out the disclaimer language on the map page; here’s Verizon’s small print disclaimer:

These Coverage Locator maps are not a guarantee of coverage and may contain areas with no service. These maps reflect a depiction of predicted and approximate wireless coverage of the Verizon Wireless Network and the network of other carriers. The coverage areas shown do not guarantee service availability, and may include locations with limited or no coverage. Even within a coverage area, there are many factors, including a customer’s equipment, terrain, and proximity to buildings, foliage, and weather that may impact service. An all-digital device will not operate or be able to make 911 calls when digital service is not available. Some of the coverage area includes networks run by other carriers; some of the coverage depicted is based on their information and public sources and we cannot ensure its accuracy.

What about the situation where a wireless carrier has good coverage at your home and work, but sometime later it tanks.   In this case, the carriers who offer something like Verizon’s 30-day Worry Free Guarantee® will likely tell you to take a hike after 30 days, even if their service goes down or away.

You’re asking why a carrier with good coverage today would have bad coverage in the future? Well, sometimes carriers realign and reduce cell site coverage to permit them to add more cell sites into their existing network.  This is to increase capacity and in-building penetration, but the result can be that some customers actually lose service.

The bottom line is that cellular/PCS service changes by your carrier may render your service unavailable or less reliable in areas where you had solid coverage and adequate capacity.  If the carrier’s network changes leave you high-and-dry, call and demand that they restore your service to its previous level, or to release you from the balance of the contract without paying the early termination fee.

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