DSL fixed?

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About four years ago we switched our house off Internet service via cable to service provided via DSL. The cable service was very unreliable and would often be down. In contrast, the DSL service was up almost all the time and hardly ever required us to reboot the modem. That was, until the last few weeks.

The web started to seem slow. Downloads were taking longer. The JungleDisk backup upload was glacially slow. Now I know that things are tweaked so that most of the bandwidth goes toward download vs. upload by a ratio of 10:1, but it seemed ridiculous. The old phrase “300 baud modem” popped into my head at unexpected times.

The real kicker came when my son I were using online virtual worlds like Second Life or World of Warcraft. Every once in a while we would get disconnected and would have to log back on. Starting last Friday, this was happening several times an hour. It was time to call support.

After a very short wait on the phone, I got connected to a helpful guy in Austin (I live in NY). We ran some speed tests and I explained about the two problems: slow speed and the service just vanishing for several seconds every once in a while. Eventually I got a support ticket and was told that someone from service would come on Monday morning. However, later that day we got a phone message saying that they had dialed the speed up to its maximum. My impression was that I thought they felt they were done.

This was confirmed on Sunday morning when I called them back. We ran some tests. I strongly stated that I believed I was paying for continuous Internet service and not one with the case of the hiccups. Through this discussion and the one on Saturday I repeated many times that I thought the problem was probably the modem. I suggested that swapping in a new modem was probably the easiest and cheapest way to try to fix the problem, but they wouldn’t go for it. I was assured that it was not the problem. Anyway, another trouble ticket was opened and someone would show up on Monday, though no time was specified.

Today he came. The first task was to measure the DSL speed outside the house as it came in from the street. It was good, the maximum expected. Next he measured the speed inside the house before it got the modem. It was still good, and only slightly degraded. This is an old house with a lot of interesting wiring, so I expected some dropoff. The line was not measuring any errors. The speed measured at the computer was still quite poor, even though I knew it would measure lower than the number at the modem.

Therefore the problem was … the modem.

I now have a new modem and the speed is 50% faster than it was. I don’t know about the hiccuping, but I suspect that’s been fixed as well. We’ll know next weekend when my son gives WoW a workout. If not, we’ll probably have to run some new phone lines or at least clean up some of the connections in the basement. Here’s hoping we don’t have to do that.


  1. == I strongly stated that I believed I was paying for continuous Internet service and not one with the case of the hiccups. ==

    The interesting thing is that every service agreement now disclaims that. Here’s what the Verizon FIOS agreement, which a friend of mine has, says: “Service availability, speed and uninterrupted service not guaranteed.”

  2. I can recommend buying a wireless modem; there are many brands (though IBM is not among them) and putting it on the phone line near where it enters your house. I believe in NYS, Verizon will have a junction box between ‘their wiring’ and ‘your wiring’; that would be a good place.

    Then you can join all the rest of us who fret as to whether our neighbors ‘piggy-backing’ on our wireless is good, bad, or indifferent; and leave the ‘last 10 yards’ copper problem in the history books.

    If you want guaranteed service, you had better get used to paying IBM prices (and running SNA). This service is ‘best effort’.

  3. Chris. I already had a wireless router hooked in to the DSL modem. The new modem is also a wireless access point, but I have turned that off.

  4. I watch DSL vanish regularly. It either can’t connect or connects but won’t stay connected. I’m using wireless modems throughout. The interesting bit is downstairs it connects and upstairs it won’t, so it is probably time to swap out the wireless hooked to the USB. But from the beginning, DSL has never been as reliable as dial-up even if faster. My suspicion is its reliability is oversold.

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