Saturday, October 07, 2017

Ongoing, Annoying Internet Problems

Since July, Hubby-Eric and I have been having problems with our Centurylink internet connection. It will "drop out" frequently, disconnecting us from whatever chatline, game, or website we are using. Most of the disconnects last about 90 seconds, then our ActionTec C1000A modem will reconnect and we can get on with it. For me, it means I can barely play my DCUO game, because it disconnects me each time.

After it started happening, I assumed the modem was dying and purchased a new one. An ActionTec GT784WN - because it was the most inexpensive that could handle the job and we are in financial straits. Right after it arrived, the 'net started to behave and we had a couple of weeks of peaceful bliss. Then the problems started again.

I switched out the modems, only to find the new problem happened on the new modem. Worse, the new modem couldn't recover itself from a drop out - I had to physically get up and turn the modem off then on again to get it to reset. I couldn't even reboot it from my computer, it would just freeze.

During the outages, I called Centurylink MANY times. A couple of times I got people who knew what they were talking about, mostly I got people who asked if I'd rebooted the modem in a bored voice and apologized when they couldn't help. Finally, I decided the cord to the modem might be the issue and bought a new cord.

Nope. Didn't help.

I started some ping logging so I could "see" the problem. Here's a typical outage:

Sun 09/24/2017 14:58:57.52 "Reply from bytes=32 time=20ms TTL=58"
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:02.66 "Reply from bytes=32 time=21ms TTL=58"
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:11.62 "Request timed out."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:20.62 "Request timed out."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:28.23 "Reply from Destination host unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:37.12 "Request timed out."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:42.26 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:47.40 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:52.54 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:57.69 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:02.82 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:07.95 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:13.08 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:18.22 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:23.36 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:28.51 "Reply from bytes=32 time=28ms TTL=58"
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:33.67 "Reply from bytes=32 time=26ms TTL=58"
So I scheduled a tech to come out. He fiddled with the cords and the outlets and was unable to find a problem. Typically, the 'net behaved perfectly while he was there. He suggested an adjustment to help the cord fit more securely in a wall socket and declared the problem solved.

It wasn't.

He came out again after I attempted to escalate the problem to someone higher up at Centurylink. Again, we couldn't find a problem, but he believed me that there was one. He tried some things inside the house, but nothing helped. He did determine that my speeds were WAY lower than they ought to be, and figured out how to fix that problem. Of course, I care more about a steady connection than higher speeds, since higher speeds are useless with a crappy connection, but at least it's something, right?

I decided that there was a chance both the modems from ActionTec were crap, so I contacted Actiontec and asked them for help. I specifically said I wanted to know how to troubleshoot my line, and that I'd had my ISP out to my house a couple of times. Here's the response:

In your Address Bar, where you would normally type a website, erase everything. Then type in the numbers and hit enter.

Log into your modem, click the status link and on your left, click on WAN status.

In the Broadband settings, check for Near and Far End CRC and Near and Far End RS-FEC Errors Interleave.

These should all have a ZERO to the right. If there are higher numbers here, you have a bad DSL connection and the modem is picking up errors on the line. The higher the error counts are, the more chance you will be disconnected.

Check the SNR margin too. This should be 11db to 29db for a good connection. Less than 6db and your modem WILL be disconnected.

Check the Attenuation. This should be 20db to 30db. Higher than 30db and your modem WILL be disconnected.

These all indicate issues with the DSL line or your phone wiring in your home.

Make sure you have no splitters or filters connected to your wall phone jack outlet to the modem.

Make sure your phone cord is between 6 and 12 feet long, no longer.

You may need to contact your ISP to have them check the lines at your house.

This has a little bit of new information in it. Of course, I already knew how to log into my modem, but most of the status information was meaningless to me. Heck, even with this advice, it still is meaningless, but at least I know what to look for. So, the Near End CRC Errors Interleave was not zero - it has a number. First sign that something is wrong. SNR Margin? 8 & 9 - but I need at least 11 for a good connection and if it drops to 6, I'm disconnected. Hmm. Attenuation? 33 - although I'm still connected.

I have no splitters or filters, the cord is the correct length.

I decided to check the older modem, and the results were exactly the same. So, that rules out the modem. I switched out the cords. Same problem.

That means the next step is to go outside and check the test line coming into the house. Sadly, I could not manage it alone. It's a simple enough procedure, but I needed Eric to pull it off. This morning we did the test, and here are the results:

I could be wrong, but those appear to be pretty much the same as the inside problems, which suggests the problem isn't inside my house, it's the line to my house.

Now, how on earth do I convince Centurylink of that?