Activation fees are charged to VZW when a new line is activated. They pass that cost on to the customer. Activation fees have been art of cell phones forever. They aren't new.
Also, you have been a regular member of this community for a while now. You should understand that this is how it is. If there isn't a specific promotion from VZW for activation fee waivers then you're not likely to get it. As far as what a rep said, remember the last paragraph in your customer agreement.
This Agreement and the documents it incorporates form the entire agreement between us. No puedes basarte en ningún otro documento o declaración sobre dichos asuntos de los representantes de ventas o servicio al cliente, y no tienes otros derechos con respecto al Servicio o a este acuerdo.