Limits Are So Limiting!

Diane Nilan
5 min readMay 14, 2023

Speed limits. Lane limits. Weight limits. Time limits. Height limits. Data limits. Some I can live with, this I can’t.

Who knows what all this metal is for? Communication?
Who knows what all this metal is for? Communication? Photo Diane Nilan

Everywhere we look we’re limited. But I usually can comply, if I trust that the limit is for the greater good. As a nonconformist, I get frustrated with what I deem to be false limits, or limits that profit the limiter at my expense. Like data limits.

My latest run in with limits is data for my mobile phone. After years of getting gouged by the Telecom giants, Sprint and Verizon to be specific, I delighted when Visible appeared on the scene a few years ago. I jumped on their no-contract, no-limit, no-fuss plan, paying about $35 instead of $100+ with Verizon at the time. Sure, @Visible shares @Verizon towers, but they figured out how to do it at a fraction of the cost.

After my naturally skeptical self was satisfied, and even pleased, with Visible, I never had to give them a thought. I’d get an email that they were going to bill me the set fee, no matter my data use, and then I’d get an email that they billed me. That. Was. It. The few problems I had were solved with a few texts.

My Woes Began…

Until…I recently became an official North Carolina resident after visiting here for decades.

In my past 18 years of nomadic life, as I chronicle family homelessness across country for my nonprofit, HEAR US Inc. (, I’d stay literally in the same spot when I visited my sis/BIL in the NC mountains. I mean literally. Their wifi wouldn’t carry out to my camper-van, so I relied on my hotspot for (mostly) work and bit of pleasure. I had no need to know how much data I used. Visible worked 97% of the time for me here, and it worked great in my copious travels, too.

My camping spot in the NC mountains
My camping spot in the NC mountains. Photo Diane Nilan

Hotspot is how I live/work.

The geeks at Wirecutter reviewed cell plans, so I checked with them. Mistake!

Our cost estimates assumed that anybody who wants to use their phone’s mobile-hotspot feature to share their LTE or 5G bandwidth for any sustained period would want to do so at its full speed, not cut back to 2G-esque speeds, as some “unlimited” plans require. We also assumed that most people won’t use up more than 3 GB of data a month with this feature, as it can put a real dent in a phone’s battery, but we do have an intensive scenario that assumes up to 10 GB a month in smartphone use.

Dent in my battery? Intensive scenario — 10GB? I don’t think so.

Trouble Began…

A little more than a week ago, on a Friday afternoon, my Visible signal disappeared. No idea why. I did the usual — reboot — nada. I ended up messaging @VisibleCare and they put me through what ended up being a frustrating and futile set of troubleshooting. I’m sure they have their limits. And procedures.

I ended up spending the weekend sans phone/internet. Besides annoying me tremendously, it’s a safety issue. In an emergency I need a working phone.

I was intermittently comforted (not!) that they cared about me and were working on my problem. My faith crumbled as the weekend faded.

My Limit

I gave Visible my limit — 10 am Monday morning. I’m a woman of my word whenever I can be, so I ditched Visible at 10 am Monday. I tried T-Mobile and it was a pleasant, easy remote setup. But the signal was zip. So I cancelled, friendly-like and went to what the locals said was the only choice — Verizon. After looking at the ultra-confusing Verizon website, I drove into town to their store and let the nice guy do the setup.

I winced at the double+ price tag, but picked one of the top plans for lots of use. What do I know about how many GB I use for hotspot? 25 GB sounded reasonable. Got out of there as fast as I could and headed back to my camper. Yes, it works. Good. But, in the meantime, I got gazillion texts and emails from Verizon about one thing or another. High price and high maintenance.

That was Monday. I did my usual amount of work with whatever data amounts I use. I don’t game or spend my life on social media. I may listen to Spotify. I do stream a movie or TV show most nights. One — two hours max.

Thursday I began to get messages about my data use, saying I had 10% of my hotspot left. I was puzzled/pissed. Friday pushed me over the edge, and over the limit. The throttled back Verizon is DSL-era speed. Not going to work.

Verizon responds.

I did the American consumer thing and tweeted my displeasure. Verizon responded quickly to say they’d address my issues. I’ve had several texts from “Sean,” a Verizon troubleshooter. I said call and tell me what you can do. He did, and his answer was to try to get me to switch to a new phone, free. NO! I don’t want a new phone. And they’re not free. They get me tied into you for years.

Sean’s escalating me to tech services. I have no trust in any solutions that won’t involve more money from me. My research into what plan might work for me boiled down to this:

The point here is that instead of anything being limited, there are actually lots and lots of limits. It’s unfair to call any of these plans unlimited in any real fashion. (CNBC)

Not every community has a homeless shelter, especially in Alabama. Not everybody can stay in one, either.
Not every community has a homeless shelter, especially in Alabama. Not everybody can stay in one, either. Photo Diane Nilan

So far, a first-world problem.

But let me briefly describe a bad problem that these telecom gougers cause. A recently homeless friend of mine in a southern state had a tsunami of bad things happening to her. She’s got massive health issues, can barely walk, is in extreme pain and is understandably stressed to the max. She relies on GoFundMe and other people’s goodness to survive. She’s living in her car; it’s very hot and humid there. If she can’t get a motel, she sits in her steamy hot car and uses her phone to make appointments, looking up places to stay, etc.

She’s blown past her data limit and is throttled back, which means an inordinate amount of time trying to get directions, make motel reservations (since you can’t do this in person anymore), etc.

The combination of hardships she’s facing could literally kill her, and part of the cause would be telecom dysfunction and greed. But we’ve let this happen by electing compromised representatives who benefit from whatever deals they cut with these unfettered gougers.

I’ve got another limit I’ve pushed up against. Patience. And those who know me know it’s never a good thing when that limit gets crossed. We’re there.



Diane Nilan

Founder/pres. HEAR US Inc., gives voice & visibility to homeless families & youth, ran shelters, advocate, filmmaker, author, 20 yrs. on US backroads.