On this blog I've recommended Project Fi for long term budget travellers who will visit a large number of countries. Despite gaps in reliable data service, Fi has offered effortless and consistent access to text and voice everywhere we've travelled in 2016.
However, eagle-eyed readers have noticed this worrying portion of Fi's Terms of Service.
The Services are offered only to residents of the United States. The Services must be primarily used in the United States and are not intended for extended international use. Further, the Services are designed for use predominantly within our network. If your usage outside our network is excessive, abnormally high, or cause us to incur too much cost, we may, at our option and sole discretion, suspend your Project Fi account, terminate your service, or limit your use of roaming.
Presumably roaming costs are higher for Google than normal use in the States. This language states: use too much data, they reserve the right to shut down your account without notice or possibility of appeal.
This is a frightening option for someone like me who has gone out of their way to purchase a Nexus device specifically to be able to use Project Fi. I think the new round of Nexus phones are a great choice for travelers regardless of whether they use Project Fi, but wanted to investigate further. I can't recommend Fi for international travelers if the very things I'm suggesting it for gets the account shut down.
After a series of emails with the often clueless but always chipper Fi customer service, I received the following:
I wanted to take a moment to reach out and let you know that I have spoken with our Engineers and they let me know that we cannot provide specific examples as to what could be deemed excessive or abusive use as it varies on a case by case situation, but they asked me to provide you with this statement: "We monitor days abroad and international data usage to ensure that Fi customers are not in violation of our TOS. Your proposed data usage should not trigger account suspension."
Essentially I was told that given the amount of data we currently use, we needn't worry about raising any red flags.
As I've previously stated, we purchase 2 GB a month and haven't yet actually used it all in a single billing period. This is not because we carefully monitor our usage. It's because most places we have travelled the fastest roaming data I can access is 3G.
I can see burning through significantly more data in places like Lima or Capetown where we've had faster than 3G speeds, but - as I've stated previously - if you are staying in one place for an extended period or require reliably high data speeds, you are probably better off buying a local sim card. If, however, you are a budget traveler only spending a week or two in each location and need basic data for checking email and for navigation, I still think Project Fi is a great option. And as long as you keep your data usage reasonable, you apparently don't need to worry about your account being shut down.