Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Straight Fail

Feel free to quote me on this: Prices that can't be bettered usually means service that can't be obtained. I keep running into this problem in America. This is particularly pertinent to the photography blog because one of the services that has just failed on me is the Straight Talk MiFi service.

Invariably it seems necessary to get on the phone to the helpline in order to get the service for which I have paid reinstated. This seems to happen every couple of weeks. It is therefore no surprise that a $40 data card which has 4GB of data lasts me 2 months and often expires before I get to use all the data. I won't go on about the barely passable sub-human that can barely grunt in English on the helpline - they use the cheap-ass offshore call centers like so many companies in the US do. It's not the fault of the workers - they leap at any chance they can to get out of a mud hut and into earning enough to have at least one meal a day that doesn't come from a dumpster in their own country.

There seems a definite connection between not using the hotspot and hotspot failure. Every weekend I visit my lady who has internet via Hughesnet. For 3 weekends a month I can use her data. The 3rd weekend, no matter which data package she has, the data mysteriously gets "used". It doesn't matter if anybody is using the internet or not - the data just goes from 30% used to 100% used. Suspicious of Hughesnet fraud have surfaced, given that nobody is online when large chunks of data are recorded as having been used.

Needless to say, when I return from my lady's home, I cannot use my hotspot and have to contact the helpline. This weekend, the hotspot failed again. I emailed the Straight Talk customer service people and without telling me what they did, they did something. When I started my MiFi pad today, I couldn't log in. No explanation as to what they had done. Fortunately my smartphone came up trumps. They had reset everything so the session ID had changed from what I'd set as had the password. Searching online, the password had changed to 12$817. Typing that in allowed me to reset the session ID and password to my original settings that all my equipment will recognize.

Yup - you've guessed it. Still no actual data connection. Now, I know I'm not out of data as I checked last night using my smartphone and still have 2.8GB and less than 30 days to use it. See what I mean about the service being so fragmentary that I physically cannot use all my data?

Straight Talk isn't the cheapest for mobile telephones. That prize goes to Assurance Wireless for their free Obamaphone. The cheapest I have used is the $20 every 3 months Virgin prepaid service. So far, through bitter experience I have found:
1. Virgin mobile running on Sprint really sucks. There's hardly any reception in many areas and from November to January there's negligible reception right beside their radio masts. Christmas one might just as well put the phone in a drawer - service isn't happening. I dumped Virgin after 8 miserable years.
2. Family Mobile (running on T-Mobile). Not too bad. Plenty data, the service was good. Just no service at all near my lady's home. I dumped Family Mobile because of that.
3. Straight Talk (mine runs on AT&T) - this actually seems to work despite the billing being somewhat odd. It seems that if I buy my airtime online, I get charged tax according to the phone area code. If I buy my airtime in store, I get charged local tax. That's just plain bananas and a very good reason to register a Virginia area code! As far as voicemail and connection to Google Voice, it was such a pain that anybody that rings me now gets to speak to Google voicemail and I'll just call them back.

Effectively I am paying $47 a month for my phone and getting the Hell bugged out of me by Straight Talk and paying $20 a month and getting spotty service from Straight Talk MiFi data. Clearly this situation cannot continue. I'm probably going to be hunting for a brand new pre-pay service. Because my Nexus 4 works well and I love using it (and it's barely 2 years old), I'm stuck to 3G and that means AT&T or T-Mobile. Verizon and Sprint being CDMA services, they're unusable.

The lack of data is a massive annoyance. I really cannot use a cable data service such as Time Warner or Windstream because of my forthcoming move into my motorhome. I'm thus on a hunt for a better service. I seem to use 3GB of data on my phone plus 2GB of MiFi data every month when things are going well. If I can find a service that gives me 5GB on my phone and uses AT&T that also costs $67 or less a month then I'm there.

So, blog updates are becoming more sporadic due to Straight Talk being such a pain in the butt to use. A solution is being sought though.

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