Questionable Verizon EVDO Support

Once you’ve had a taste of EVDO (presently offered only by Verizon and Sprint), it’s hard to imagine not having it. Like cell service, you quickly forget what it was like not to be online always everywhere. (It’s a great example of our rising “baseline” standard of living).

Recently, I switched to an embedded EVDO card on a new laptop (running Windows for reasons beyond the scope of this blog entry). It worked for a couple of days, and then I started getting mysterious “error 913” messages when trying to connect. After trying all the solutions that seemed obvious to me, I contacted Verizon Wireless Tech Support as suggested by the error message, which otherwise provided no information about error 913.

Perhaps surprisingly, Verizon Wireless Tech Support didn’t really know what error 913 was either. After a few minutes, I was escalated to second level tech support. They had me reboot. Then they had me reinstall the card controller software. The second-level tech support person put me on hold to speak with whatever higher level tech support she had access to. Then they had me delete the EVDO connection from the dial-up networking control panel and re-create it. None of these things worked. So she said I should just return the laptop to the store and get a new one.

It was perhaps the best example of the three “R’s” of Windows Tech Support I had ever experienced: reboot, reinstall, replace. This may perhaps be the only cost effective way of providing such support.

I persisted, though, as I was pretty sure there wasn’t a hardware issue given that all the diagnostics were coming up without error. I would rather not return a perfectly good laptop just because we couldn’t figure it out. I was also suspicious because I had seen several instances of precisely this problem popping up in message boards, and the tech support person herself told me that she had recently been unable to solve the same problem with another customer. It just didn’t have the symptomology of broken hardware.

After a few more minutes of speculating about why this might happen, the tech support person said she had an idea, and asked me to try to reconnect. Since then, it has worked perfectly.

As I understand the problem, my account was enabled for unlimited “roaming” EVDO access, but did not actually have authorization for “non-roaming” (i.e., within the network) access. Thus the connection was rejected.

There are several things wrong with this picture. Why didn’t the EVDO access manager software provide an error message that actually indicated that the connection was refused for lack of authorization? Why didn’t anyone at Verizon know what error 913 was? Shouldn’t Verizon have a checklist for such issues that includes “check to see if the subscriber is properly signed up”? (For that matter, why did my account spontaneously lose non-roaming access?) These are just a few questions that come to mind.

I hate to beat on Verizon, since I’ve done it three times before, but it’s almost like they’re just asking for it. Maybe it’s time they rethink their organizational strategy.