Verizon: No Internet for You

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The next time you are at a trade show and stop receiving emails or text messages, it could be because you are a Verizon customer.

I was at a trade show recently and after an hour was surprised that I hadn’t received any emails or WeChat text messages. (I have a lot of contacts in Asia, where WeChat is the dominant messaging service.) It’s profoundly odd for me top go an hour with no communications. By the second hour of deadness I was perplexed. Finally, a worried telephone call came in asking if I was OK? Huh?

This could happen to you at your next trade show attendance, so I will spare you the grief and tell you what is happening.

Verizon has started implementing “HotSpot 2.0” at select venues. With HotSpot 2.0 a carrier can provide WiFi service and tell your cell phone to switch off their network and onto the carrier’s Wifi. This happens transparently, without your doing anything (or having any control.) I suppose the carrier’s marketing department pitches it this way: By offloading everybody at a trade show to our free WiFi, tower congestion is greatly reduced. This sounds good on paper. It is terrible in practice.

What happens is that all of your internet access switches over to a hopelessly overloaded WiFi HotSpot. You then have 0 bytes of upload and 0 bytes of download capacity. Ookla speed check cannot even start up. There is literally no throughout on this woefully inadequate WiFi. (I’m not even convinced that the WiFi hot spot even had an internet connection plugged into it.) Because your phone now is on WiFi, all traffic is routed to the WiFi, which means you have no connectivity.

So for 2½ hours I was out of touch and didn’t know it. I could send and receive phone calls and SMS, but I couldn’t send or receive emails or WeChat messages.

Finally, I noticed the WiFi icon lit up on my phone. That seemed odd because I didn’t link to any WiFi at this venue. I opened up settings and then saw that I was connected to a WiFi service called “Verizon”. I was curious how it chose Verizon without my permission, since I am quite selective of what HotSpots I will even connect to. After some drilling down into settings (where these hotSpot settings looked entirely different from anything I have ever seen on my phone before) I realized Verizon had used the HotSpot 2.0 protocol to move me over to WiFi where it then dead-ended all of my traffic, leaving me out of service. (No permission on my part required.)

The fix was easy: Turn off WiFi. I then immediately had service again and the emails and WeChat text messages came rolling in again. (Of Course I then forgot to turn ON WiFi after I left the venue and re-learned what terrible coverage Verizon has at my home.)

So the next time you go somewhere popular and have no internet service (looks like you do but nothing goes in or out) perhaps your carrier (Verizon) has simply dumped you in their HotSpot 2.0 graveyard.

Verizon used to be so good, and they used to have the best network. Alas, those days are gone and now we are in the era where their priorities are Yahoo (3 billion compromised accounts) and AOL.

Colin Berkshire