Sunday, April 26, 2009

internet in italy is hard, and TIM sucks.

We haven't posted in awhile because we have no internet.  It's surprising, because Italy seems like the worst country we've been in so far for finding internet.  China was the best, as there was free wifi almost everywhere.  You could walk around and hop on wifi networks.  That was one of the reasons we didn't even bother to get phone service there.  There seems to be a lot of wifi in Italy, but it's all password protected.  In India there was less free wifi, but after 6 hours of futzing around with settings, we got my android phone to work with IDea unlimited internet through their mobile phone network.  It was pretty cheap -- only about $0.40 a day.

We tried to sign up for a mobile phone number and unlimited internet in Italy.  We had a very (over-)confident guy at a mobile phone store in Napoli who sold us a TIM sim card for 30 Euro ($40) with an unlimited internet plan.  Unfortunately he either misconfigured the phone or it didn't work right, because I was getting charged by the amount of data I downloaded, and my prepaid phone kept running down to 0 or even a negative balance.  I didn't even know that was possible, but apparently I had a negative $40 balance on the "prepaid" phone.  I went back to his store to complain to him, and he visibly lost all his confidence under pressure and seemed to want to get me out of the store.  He managed to convince me he had fixed it, so we left.  (We were in a hurry anyway.)

I was able to use the internet for awhile, but it's now been shut off again because my balance is below 0.  Marisa claims that me getting my TIM internet to work is like my white whale (the white whale is Moby Dick, and I'm the crazy skipper), because I've been talking about it for about a week now.  It's been a boon for my Italian understanding, though.  Neither of us spoke Italian before, although we do speak a little Spanish.  Italian and Spanish seem pretty similar so long as you don't conjugate words, don't use verbs, and in general talk like a grade-A moron.  While searching for my white whale I've navigated through a phone tree in Italian, had two conversations in a mix of Italian and English, and had one conversation entirely in Italian.  I wasn't that successful in the last one, as the internet still isn't working.  The woman did open *another* help center case for me, though.

Example snippet of phone conversation in pidgin english-italiano:

"I called 5 hours earlier and spoke to someone and wanted to know what the status is."

"Yes, you resharged [recharged] your sim 5 euro?  You have below zayro [zero] balance"   (I had indeed recharged it with 5 euro.  That 5 was an unfortunate coincidence with the number 5 in my "5 hours ago")

"no, no.  Let me try to explain.  I called oggi [today] at chinque ore [5 hour] and spoke to a persone [person].  Capisco?  [understand?]"

"yes.  you have open case from then."

"si si! [yes yes]"

"it is still open.  someone from TIM client assistance will call you tomorrow."

"Do you know what my problema [problem| is?"

"no.  you must wait.  someone will call you tomorrow."  (argh)

"ok...  grazie [thanks]"

"I am sorry for my bad english."

"No no!  Your english is Perfeto! [perfect]"  (I hoped a little charm would advance my cause.)

(blushing over the phone) "Thank You!"

"Prego [you're welcome]"

"Good Bye"


Meanwhile, no one called me the next day.  (or the next)


  1. Have you tried talking with your hands? Not to stereotype but isn't that what Italians do? Okay, it is a stereotype. So I hope Marisa has been doing some interestimg thing while you're searching for your white whale.

  2. I think you hit on a great way to get fluent quickly in Italian. Maybe most people have internet connections at home. That could be a disincentive for free public wi-fi(?).

  3. but aren't the italian men and women beautiful, and their language is so pleasant to listen to? think of the little benefits in this misadventure. you and neha should commiserate. she ultimately succeeded in germany, but it was hard going.

  4. I think that probably happened to me. I built up a huge negative balance before my unlimited data plan actually activated. Also, I think the mobile phone store guy configured the wrong APN, from what i've read on the web.