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U.S. Cellular's new Shared Connect plans increase data caps, but at a cost

Subscribe to a data plan on U.S. Cellular and find yourself stretched for data? The rural carrier’s myriad new data tiers might help matters some. On Thursday, U.S. Cellular revamped its Shared Connect Plans offerings with larger allotments, prices a tad higher than they were before, and new tools for managing plan members’ data usage.

The changes are mostly for the better. U.S. Cellular’s smallest plan, previously 1GB for $25 per month, has doubled in data and gone up in price: it’s now 2GB for $30. Those increases are across the board: the old 3GB for $40 plan is now 4GB for $45, and the 6GB for $55 is now 8GB for $60. On the high end, the carrier has left the price of its old 12GB plan intact at $80 and bumped the cap to 16GB, and almost doubled the size of what was previously its largest plan, 15GB for $90, to 24GB for $100.

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Every plan includes unlimited domestic calling and texting, and subscribers have the option of adding adding multiple lines. There’s an associated fee, of course — $20 per line for smartphones, home phones, routers, and hot spots and $10 tablets — but U.S. Cellular said customers can change their plan at any time.

“We continue to provide the best value,” Joe Settimi, U.S. Cellular’s vice president of marketing, said in a press release. “Plus, our customers can use their phones, tablets and connected devices with confidence that they are not going to exceed their data plans. These new plans are easy to understand, giving our customers the flexibility to choose the right one for them, knowing they’ll be using their device on a high-quality 4G LTE network that keeps them connected nationwide.

Related: Cut down on your phone bill: How to reduce your data usage on Android or iOS

Customers who opt for one of the two pricier plans receive additional perks. The 16GB and 24GB Shared Connect tiers feature unlimited calling and texting to Mexico and Canada, plus access to online controls that allow a designated plan manager to restrict data usage a per-line level. On less expensive Shared Connect plans, that latter service on is a $4.99 per month upcharge.

U.S. Cellular took today’s opportunity to announce new incremental payment terms. Subscribers now have the choice of paying off a new smartphone over a period of 20, 24, or 30 months. And for a limited time, new customers who port their number from another carrier and trade in their device are eligible for buy-out of their current contract.