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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Verizon USB760 Touring Fail

I'm getting ready to do some touring across the country by RV with my family.  During the weeks that we are on the road I'll work during the day while they vacation.  I will be taking a few days off here and there.  In order for me to be able to do that, I need some wireless broadband.  I researched all the various options, looked at the coverage areas, and decided to purchase a Verizon USB760 Wireless modem.  Verizon seemed to have the best coverage (much better than AT&T or Virgin Mobile), and having a separate wireless connection than my cell-phone means that I can talk and webex at the same time.  They also seem to have some coverage in Canada where I'll be headed for part of the trip.

The modem has been sitting in the box for about 10 days.  Since the prepaid account has a 30 day limit on the bandwidth I purchase, I wanted to wait as long as possible before activating it.  I installed the device today.  The device didn't want to go through the automatic activation process.  So, I called the support number given in the software.  The first person I talked to couldn't help me; he insisted that I must already have an account with them or a phone number (which I didn't yet...).  After a while he got it, and so he transferred me to someone else in their Mobile wireless account division.  That guy couldn't help me either, but he knew it right away, and gave me the phone number of someone who could.

Now for the next bit of fun.  That guy couldn't help me without a number either, and the only way he knew to get it was from the software.  So he was made to wait 5 minutes while my computer was rebooting (yeah, I got to put tech support on hold).  Then we get the application loaded (which I have more gripes about later), and he has me dig up the device serial number (that is clearly printed on the bottom of the device).  Then we set up an account so that it can be activated (because I still wasn't spending a dime until I could verify that it worked).  After the activation, walla!  I have another phone number.  Just what I needed, right.  Not really, but it was what he needed to complete the task.

Finally, the device activates.  Then the software tries to "reconfigure the device".  The tech guy tells me that sometimes it gets locked into a loop and after a while you have to kill it (via task manager).  I kill it and restart the app, only to learn from him that the proper order is:  A) start the app, and then B) insert the device.  So I kill again, do it right, and still nothing.  I then unplug device and plug into another USB port, and finally, it is recognized.  So, now I can verify that everything works, and seemingly it does.  The real test will be on the road next week.  So far, it hasn't been very promising.  About half the time I start the software I have to reinsert the device a couple of times before it works

This same bogus application itself ALSO wants to manage my Wi-Fi card.  No thank you!  Keep your stinking hand's off my WiFi card.  I have specialized software that manages that for me installed by corporate IT demons with scary visages and even scarier policies that secures my WiFi access.  Fortunately, the application doesn't seem to mess that up (I turned off the WiFi radio and it couldn't find it when it installed).

So, if you are looking for a pay as you go wireless service in North America, I can tell you that as best I know
  • Verizon has the best coverage (but don't try to use it in my basement),
  • the software stinks,
  • the support people are good, but
  • the support processes need a lot of work (e.g., The phone number they give in the software you should direct you right away to people who know about the device associated with the sofware, I mean, come on, this is networking, right!) 
  • the rates kinda stink, but given the coverage area I need, $50 for 30 days of e-mail and web access doesn't seem terrible.
I'll let you know how the rest works out.

So, where am I headed?  Toronto, Indianopolis, Milwaukee, Portland, Oregon, parts of Arizona, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma and I'm not sure where else, and not necessarily in that order.  I'll be diverted along the way to the IHE meeting in Oakbrook from July 12 to 15th to deal with public comment, and then catch up with my family in the Milwaukee area on the 16th after a day in Waukesha.  I'll be stopping along the way at different company offices to give CDA/CCD Ambassador Presentations and catch others up on meaningful use (and mabe to borrow some real bandwidth).

This also started because I told my wife that the next time the family was in Phoenix, there was a place I needed to take them for Sushi.