Verizon's tiered LTE plans fuel 'bill shock' debate

apparent decision to offer tiered in the near future could spark more debate on carriers' overage fees and so-called "bill shock."

According to the , Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam said during a Barclays Capital conference Thursday that users who sign up for the company's 4G LTE services should expect to pay for "buckets" of data rather than pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited use. In other words, LTE plans would give users a certain amount of data they could consume every month before they would have to pay overage fees.

New tiered pricing plans for LTE services could add fuel to the debate over the fees telecoms can charge their customers who exceed their monthly limits, as well as the carriers' obligations to inform customers when they're almost at their monthly limits. A survey commission by the Federal Communications Commission and released Wednesday shows that 17% of U.S. cell phone users said their cell phone bills had "increased suddenly from one month to the next" even if they "did not change the calling or texting plan" they subscribed to.

Although we don't yet know how Verizon plans to implement its tiered pricing system for LTE, it's quite possible that the new data plans could lead to even more potential bill shock, especially if users are unaware that they're about to reach their monthly data limits. An extreme example of this sort of problem occurred last year, when a woman in Oklahoma was billed more than $5,000 for exceeding the 5GB monthly data cap for her notebook on AT&T's 3G network.

This is particularly important because the FCC survey found that carriers didn't do a good job of contacting people when they were about to hit their monthly limits on voice or data. According to the survey, only 14% of users hit with bill shock said that their carrier tried to contact them when they were about to exceed their monthly voice, SMS or data usage, while only 10% of users said their carrier contacted them after their bill suddenly increased.