“Fixing” the Internets

I do hope that the subject no longer warrents quotes around “fixing,” but a trusting an internet connection is like proving things in physics: something can work a million times, but the 1,000,001st time is what gets you.  It bothers me that the general public doesn’t seem to understand that science can’t really prove anything.  But that is not what I want to ramble on about today.

Instead, you get to hear all about how Cox Communications’ high speed cable internet can be irritating.  Or, more succinctly, “Sucks: Cox,” which is somewhat more amusing.

It all began earlier in 2009.  I think, anyway.  We signed up for cable internet from Cox last September.  We were happy – it worked, it was reasonably fast, and it was reasonably priced.  Then after several months, the connection would spontaneously drop now and then.  At first, I attributed it to my computer’s wackiness, until one day Mike’s computer couldn’t connect either.  I took a look at the all-telling cable modem lights, and lo and behold, the little one indicating “online” was dark.  But never fear, it was back on and happy ten minutes later, and I didn’t think about it again.

Until the next week.  And then a few days later.  And finally, in May, it was happening frequently enough that I was irked sufficiently to do something about it.  I actually used a phone book to look up the phone number for Cox (since the internet was down, after all.)  After jibbering at the automated phone system until it gave me a person, I explained my problem (and provided my account information, blah blah blah).  First, I had to convince them that my computer wasn’t the problem. Next, I had to unplug the modem and plug it back in to reset it.  Next, they sent it a magic restart signal.  Voila, it worked!

The next day: intermittent service problems.  I called again.  First, I had to convince them that my computer wasn’t the problem. Next, I had to unplug the modem and plug it back in to reset it.  Next, they sent it a magic restart signal.  No dice.  They arranged to send out a technician.

The next day: Mr. Technician showed up (an hour after the two hour possible slot ended) and amazingly, the internet wasn’t working then!  He gave it a magic restart signal.  Voila, it worked.  But no, I explained, sometimes it does this weird thing where it won’t work.  Boy do I sound like I know what I’m talking about.  He measured the signal strength and put an attenuator in the line since the signal was too strong.  He mentioned that the problem could be the power outlet – if not properly grounded, it might cause the modem to tweak out.  We tried moving it to another outlet.  It kept working, and he left.

Ten minutes later: intermittent service problems.  Figures.  I wired it up to yet another new outlet, this time with a longer cable-cable, and measured the signal strength myself.  Borderline low.  Duh, I took out the attenuator.  Voila, it worked!

The next day: you guessed it, intermittent service problems.  And on, and on, until I got fed up last week and called yet again.  They sent a magic reset signal.  Voila, it worked.  But no, sometimes it does this weird thing, where it won’t work, and could you please send out a technician?  “I’m sorry, but your internet is currently working, so we can’t send a technician out.”  Dammit.

Ten minutes later: big surprise.  Finally yesterday I call again.  They arrange to send out another technician.  He came this morning.  The internet was functioning brilliantly the entire time he was here, but he measured the signal strength anyway and put a weaker attenuator inside and another one outside.  One controls uplink and the other downlink.  He also mentioned that there was some kind of “power ingress warning,” meaning that my power outlets might suck and not be properly grounded, which causes signal confusion in the modem.  Yes, I knew this.  But he is relatively confident that his attenuators will do the trick.  He says the only other thing to try is a new modem, because Cox can’t exactly rewire our apartment.  Suck, Cox.

Anyway, I was optimistic when I began writing this post, but since then it has been several hours and I am now at school (doing lots of work as you can see).  The main reason I came into school at all was because, at 1:48pm, about three hours after the technician left, the internet stopped working.

All I can say is that this service is not worth $43.99 per month, but switching to DSL from AT&T would cost about the same and possibly be even more of a pain to deal with.  Those are really the only two high speed internet options in these parts, so far as I know.  I have learned a fair amount about the finicky nature of cable modems lately.  This is why I am not an electrical engineer.  I guess I’m just glad we aren’t paying for Cable TV that doesn’t work, too.


One thought on ““Fixing” the Internets

  1. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve had pretty good luck with AT&T. It’s not been perfect, but in general I haven’t had too many problems. It gets bad sometimes when it’s really windy or stormy, and occasionally it gets bad for no apparent reason. But this only happens once every 4-6 months, which is decent enough for me.

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