While this isn’t really a Dominican Republic topic, it is of concern for those living in the DR want to be able to use the internet while in the States. I thought it might be good to describe my experience with Virgin Mobile and their pre-paid wireless internet plan while I was visiting the United States.

My goal was to have a temporary modem style internet connection during my recent visit to the US. Not wanting to get tired to a 18 month plan when I only plan on being in the States for a couple months I started checking online for pre-paid internet plans. There are actually several available but Virgin Mobile seemed to have the best plan for the best price. You can check things out at www.virginmobileusa.com.

U600 USB Modem or Overdrive WiFi

My plans were to stay in the California Bay Area for about a month before heading up north. Virgin Mobile has an online chat so I started a conversation with one of their representatives. The Bay Area has a 4G network so I opted for one of Virgins 2 4G modems the U600 USB modem or the Overdrive Wifi modem.

First question I had for the representative is whether the U600 will work with Windows 8, their website only mentions comparability with up to Windows 7. The representative assured me that it would work with Windows 8, to be sure asked again if she was sure of that, the answer was yes, it had been tested. GREA! the U600 was about half the price to buy in comparison with the Overdrive modem. The following questions were about the 4G coverage.

The 4G coverage is important because with the Virgin Mobile plan you get 2gig of download with 3G but if you can receive 4G you get unlimited downloads for the same $35 per month. The First 10gig is at the highest speed which then drops down to 2 meg downloads for the rest of the month.

So, I purchased the modem and had it delivered to where I would be staying in the States. Once I got to the States I would then activate the modem.

Virgin Mobile Tech Support

I should have figured that things were going too smoothly. Once in the States, as promised my U600 modem showed up, although it took a couple days longer than expected. I unpackaged the modem and plugged it in so that it could install the software on my computer. After several attempts it became evident that is wasn’t going to install on my computer.

So I called tech support. After a half hour wait I finally talked to someone who assured me that it would work, but she wasn’t the right person to help, so I was put back on hold to start over again. Another 20 minutes later I was talking to someone else, once again assured it would work but I had been transferred to the wrong support area and was again put on hold.

One the third try as I described the problem the Tech immediately told me that the U600 was not compatible with Windows 8 and that I would have to return the item. Being that the error was theirs and not mine I assumed that they would be paying for the shipping or would send me out something that would work. Wrong on both counts!

Not only did I need to pay for the shipping, I would need to buy the Overdrive modem at a raised price. The price that I was quoted when I was online with the chat service was no longer valid and now I would need to pay about $25 more for the overdrive modem than I would have had to if the tech support person had directed me in the right direction in the first place.

After requesting to talk to the supervisor I was told that they would escalate the problem to management and see if they could swap out the modem for the right one or at least give me the sale price I would have paid earlier. I was given a ticket number and told that I would be called the next business day if there was any problems.

Well, the next business day came and went, so I decided to call them, after 2 transfers I finally got to someone who said he could help. When I gave them the Reference ID number it was invalid, not only that, but all notes on my previous call had been erased out of the system, or at least they could find no record of it.

Back to square one. I started to go over the problem with the new representative but it became obvious I was beating a dead horse and requested an RMA to return the modem. Virgin Mobile has another interesting rule. In order to get your money back you have to ship the item back and then call them once again to give them the tracking number. You don’t call them again, you dot get your money back.

So, down to UPS, ship the item out for another $10.00 and start the phone procedure to try and give them the number. Once again 15 minutes on hold, when I talked to someone they transferred me to another person starting the hold que again. After several more minutes I gave up and decided it would be quicker to start a PayPal dispute with Virgin Mobile.

Once I started the dispute I got a email address for Virgin Mobile and outlined everything I did after their “Chat” support gave me a bum steer. This included my original order number, the new order number with the RMA and the UPS tracking number. It will be interesting to see if I ever get my money back.

Meanwhile instead of using a modem to work, I am now at a library using free internet after spending a couple hours on the phone with Virgin Mobile, having to pay to return their part and getting a few new gray hairs. Thanks Virgin Mobile, you have been a joy to work with. 🙁

Franklin U600 Modem Windows 8 Driver download

(April 16 2013 Update to article) Here is an up date on the driver issue. It looks like Franklin has finally coded a Windows 8 compatible driver for their U600 Modem. If you need to upgrade your windows 7 driver you can find it here too. U600 Windows 8 Driver.