Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Here We Go 'Round the Roaming Ring (or doesn't ring)

Old story, new twist. And it just keeps getting twistier: how to stay connected to the world when one travels, or one lives in a remote area? I'd appreciate it if you would weigh in with your opinions. A decision must be made.

--I am at The Farm where I come "hide" to write. We rent this place all year long, and I come and go.

--I've been a Verizon wireless cell phone user since they were Ameritech, which not even my spellcheck remembers. I stay with Verizon because their customer service rocks and I can always get and keep a connection, even when fellow travelers using other wireless companies cannot.

--I should have written that last item in past tense, as in, "used to could." The Verizon commercials showing all those kinda creepy stalking "network" folks currently sends me BALLISTIC! In my cannot-stay-connected state, I can only imagine that that severely nosy herd of people is standing on--and therefore compressing and ruining--whatever used to make my connection WORK!

--Lots of people, as in many, have told me, "Beware of Sprint!"

--The only options I have here for Internet are: dial-up (currently using HBCI); driving 6 miles to town to a free Wi-Fi zone; broadband card; satellite ($$$); or a private guy who charges spendy fees plus an expensive equipment buy-in, and who will not buy equipment back should we decide to stop renting here.

--Verizon said, "Pay us $30 extra/month and use your Blackberry Storm as a modem!" Interesting how well that worked at home in IL but not here, where my signal switches (hyperactively flips and flops) between EVDO and 1X and dropped and no service at all--same as with my voice usage.

--I am on Verizon "roaming" when here at The Farm (a-HAH!). Here, Verizon partners with Alltel, who earlier today told me to my face that they're currently using (as in switched over to) a Sprint tower (say what?) until Verizon takes them (Alltel) over within the next few months. Supposedly Verizon is "doing something." As of 9/1, this Alltel store will be a Verizon store (Alltel customers have been notified), but ... will the towers all hopefully be upgraded, or steadied, or redirected, or get over their menopause, or be on Ritalin by then?

--Over the past several months, I have put in three tickets with Verizon to have them figure out why I cannot stay connected via CELL PHONE here, to which they respond--and I am reading this directly from one of the three identical ticket responses they've sent me--"(Verizon) trouble ticket NRB etc. has come back as a marginal coverage area." When I say I cannot stay connected, I mean sometimes for hours at a time I have no service at all. Or one bar (never more than 2) and/or tons of dropped calls. Or supposedly 2 bars but my phone doesn't ring and 5 hours later I find out I have a message. Or, a good connection with no troubles.

--This "marginal coverage area" didn't used to be that, at least in terms of consistent service, so ... what happened? I assured Verizon that I did not move the house, so why did I used to (at least five years' worth) happily live without this misery? Alltel "roaming" issues? Sprint tower "roaming" troubles? A bad Verizon marriage with renegade roamers?

Since it is YOU I pay, Verizon, it is from you I expect intelligent answers. How did I recently and mysteriously become "marginalized" in a location you are soon taking over, which means I shall no longer be roaming? (Then, *228 will hopefully actually WORK, which your tech support has recommended to me several times, but which does not work in your ROAMING areas!) But does that mean that in the end, I will, or will not, still be marginalized?

--A couple weeks ago, Sprint offered a two-day deal: free broadband card, no activation fee, 30-day trial, pro-rated on a month-long fee ($60 per month). After which a 2-year contract locks in.

Can you say, desperate? Despite the warnings, why not try it?

--I spent nearly FOUR HOURS in the Sprint store while they worked to get my laptop operating with the software for their free high-speed broadband card. Which they never did figure out. So they gave me the upgraded card for free. (Do you SEE the good customer service in the free upgrade, and the irony in four hours for high-speed?) Nonetheless, the end result is that they prevailed (YAY!) and the USB card immediately finds and holds a "CDMA EVDO REV A" connection like nobody's business! It works best when I use the tether, as seen in the photo, rather than plugging it straight into the port. It has not operated at less than 40%, most often is 60%+ and sometimes 100% of that CDMA EVDO REV A. Compared to dial-up, it is greased lightening. I am ecstatic! So, I got that high-speed Internet connection going.

But what about my cell? And ...

-- Since my Sprint 30-day broadband card test period is winding down, I wonder:

  • once Verizon kicks in here, might they totally get their act together, and for $30/month rather than Sprint's $60, will my Blackberry Storm actually work well as a modem?
  • Or, might Verizon's presence change "something" about the towers that causes the Sprint card to not work as well, i.e. might the FCC ding Sprint or Verizon over those fair trade "issues?"
  • Verizon told me they don't have control over tower things (it's in the hands of the FCC, they say, so no promises), so assuredly, Sprint has no control either. But when will I know For Sure?

--Verizon is taking over Alltel here in "3rd quarter," (July?) but cannot (or won't?) guarantee anything will get better here due to that "marginalized" status, which Sprint did not use as an excuse since they've come in with new 3G service. However, Alltel store guys (soon to be Verizon employees) tell me the service will absolutely positively assuredly get better once they are Verizon.


  • Do I return the Sprint card in order to keep from locking in a 2-year contract, banking that Verizon does get their act together?
  • Do I keep the Sprint card anyway, and then have 2 options for calls: Verizon cell phone or Sprint broadband using Skype?
  • If I keep both, I could (and financially would have to) rid myself of the Qwest land line, Qwest, who has--YIKES!--partnered with Verizon Wireless! And obviously, no land line, no dial-up as back-up. If I don't need it, who cares? But I'm just sayin' ...
  • However, is it possible that the FCC could cause both Sprint and Verizon to let me down? I wouldn't think so, but then I never thought Verizon or their current roaming partner, which is either Alltel or Sprint or "marginal" inducing aliens, would annihilate my ability to stay connected either.

HELP! Opinions, please? I'd especially appreciate your opinion if you are one of those bazillion Verizon network guys supposedly following everybody around but me.

Readers, I'd appreciate if you'd use the COMMENTS section of this blog to weigh in rather than email me. That way, we can comment on each other's comments too. Hey, pretty soon, we, too, might create our OWN "network" of stalking people and therefore rule the world.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Still my dog.

Still my dog.
Originally uploaded by twinklechar
Some days, the best traveling companion is the one who doesn't complain, and who loves you just the way you are.

Kornflake is ready to hit the road at the drop of the word "ride?" He travels light, settles in well and occasionally sniffs my ear. He is kind, interested and loves the drive-through windows that hand him a treat too.

All hail the tail-wagging traveling doggies of the world!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Brain Trippin'

Since for a few weeks I've been sequestered in MN to write (and still a couple more weeks to come), the most traveling I've indulged is local. Still, in my mind, I am often "gone." Hanging out "over there," which is anywhere but at my keyboard.

Since I write fiction, the ability to mentally transition to "over there" is a good thing. But sometimes, my mind zings right through the back door of my fictional town and takes flight.

For instance, as I type, I sit in a coffee shop in this here college town, occasionally raising my head to look out the window. I watch in amazement as cars, pedestrians and bicyclists flash by. So many people on the move. So many real and muse driven stories whirring into the cosmos with each step and turn.

Curiosity begs I study the five women at the table across from me who just burst into laughter. I imagine the dreams tucked deep inside, their friendships (jealousies, betrayals, distortions, heartaches, secrets), adventures and travels.

When I log into my Facebook account (“Writer at work. Please interrupt.”), I take special notice of those who are packing, leaving, returning, sightseeing, working a trade show, vacationing or rendering a teary farewell to visiting friends and relatives. "Traveling mercies," I whisper, recalling tired hours in airports, frustrating seatmates, disturbing noises in the hotel room next to mine.

But just like that, I also long for the days when I deplaned in a far-away place and soon spotted an exotic new restaurant. Or thanked the bell hop who carried my bags to my room. Or chatted with the most interesting people sitting next to me on the trolley in Amsterdam.

Yes, so many stories whirring into the cosmos with each step and turn.

For now, 'tis mine to be happy where I'm planted. It's enough--and it's exciting--to be able to take that mind's ride to the foreign and familiar places my fictional characters lead me. And I shall do that, right after one more study of those five women. One more look out the window at all those people going all those places.

Right after one more evaluation of why the grass is always greener on the other side of my day-trippin' mind.