For the last several days, I have been having connection difficulties between various devices and my home router. This is full of techie talk. You might want to scroll down to the next section
At first, it was my desktop. At random times the connection would start becoming insanely slow. Other times it would just die completely. I go into troubleshooting mode.
All the lights on the router are green. The ATT U-verse router they gave me doesn’t have a light on the front for each port, just a single light for “ethernet”. But there are lights on the back for each ethernet jack and they are all also green. That means at least the physical connection is good. Having lights on the front that could tell me if there was data flow on a specific port would have been nice. I guess they ran out of LEDs when they built it.
I ping myself. A “ping” is a command where you send signals to a network address to see if it will talk back to me. The network card in the computer lives at an address of 127.0.0.1. It is the address where the card interfaces with the computer. It pings just fine.
Next, I ping the IP address I’ve been assigned by the router, 192.168.1.97. That comes up just fine. The 192..97 is the address the router “sees.” (If an address hadn’t been assigned by the router it would have a 169… address instead.)
Next, I try pinging the router itself at 192.168.1.254. BZZZT! That’s a fail. WTF?
Just for giggles I do an “ipconfig” release and renew. That tells the network card to forget what it has been assigned and then to renew the data. “Release” works but “renew” crashes and burns. No communication between PC and router, green lights be damned. Power cycle router, no fix. Reboot the PC, no fix. The reboot takes forever and I have a “no internet connection” icon on the lower right of my login screen.
Just to make sure, I swap out the ethernet cable and then I change the port it is plugged into. No change.
I go over to my laptop. It has connectivity, but sweet Jesus it is slow. Everything pings fine internally but the router is coming back with incredibly slow responses. After a while, the connection just fails. I check my phone and the wireless icon is gone. So I try the internet, figuring I can use my data plan. No such luck. I go to look at my wireless connection. It says “connected – but no internet connectivity”. WTF?
Just to add insult to injury, my wireless weather station is flashing “server not found” at me.
I let everything sit turned off for a bit and power back up. Internet is back. Happy!
The television also works off the router. It saw no loss of service. But I don’t know if a data failure there would also shut down picture and sound or if I’d just lose on-demand ability and program updates. Didn’t check the landline.
Everything is working fine, so I let loose with a “Heavy Sigh!” and continue on my way.
I can do a factory reset but that is only available through the router interface. No reset button here. Have to be able to connect and log in. Hate to do that. Doubt if it will fix anything and I’d have to go back and reconfigure.
The problem recurs to a varying extent over the next several days. I am getting irritated by it so I break down and call tech support. Oh yeah. Tech support does not exist anymore. It is all customer support. I call the number.
I get an answer immediately. It sounds like a human being – but it isn’t. The intonations and pauses are correct but the voice is too perfectly modulated. It seems to acknowledge what you say, it has a great voice recognition program and a wide variety of responses. It can generate responses on the fly to what you say. But if you say something unrelated to what it asks you always get the same, “I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you said.”
Fine. But what really irritated me was the keyboarding sounds they inserted. After every statement you make, there is the sound of typing on a clicky keyboard. No matter how much you say or how little, it lasts the same time, about a second. I couldn’t tell if there were a set number of clicky sounds prerecorded or if a random clicky generator produced them on the fly.
If I were the kind of person who was easily insulted, I’d have been insulted. ATT booted some poor phone workers into the unemployment line – if India even has such a thing – and then tries to delude customers into thinking they are talking to a real human being. After a while, I get transferred to tech support.
His name may be “Jack” but that can’t hide his Indian accent.
In order to “help” me, the agent needs my 4 digit passcode. I don’t remember setting one of those up when I started the service ten years ago. Ok, how about the secret question. “Who is your favorite singer?” I draw another blank.
I don’t need to do anything on the account. I have a technical issue. You’ve got my information right there. I could go online and get all this info but my internet is down. Finally, he looks up the account after I give him the contact number (wife’s cell phone) and my address.
He runs some tests. “Everything is fine from here.”
“I know that. Broadband connectivity to the router isn’t the issue The problem is the router is not communicating with the devices on my LAN.”
“Ok. Let me see what I can do. (wait… clickety… clickety…wait) I see you have two different wireless networks. I can combine them into one and you will have a stronger signal.”
“It has worked ten years this way perfectly fine. If it suddenly stops working, it isn’t because my settings are wrong. My phone and laptop both indicate neither wireless network is working. Combining them won’t do any good. This indicates the router has started to fail.”
“I’m sorry. If you do not want to do this then I have to refer you to a higher level tech support, Genius Computers.”
“Is there a fee for this?”
This is going nowhere. Thank you, goodbye, end of call. If I get some kind of survey, I’ll say he did great. Not his fault.
The guy doesn’t understand what I am saying. I do not blame him. He’s doing the best he can with what he’s got. I blame ATT for not training him adequately. That might cost money. Even if he were trained adequately, they’d never give him authority to replace the router. His job is to pick the low hanging fruit. Anything more stops being free and goes in someone’s profit column.
When I started technical support for Verizon FiOS, I’d wrestle with the problem. I had a CCNA and an MCSE as well as years of playing with PC hardware. The other agents I worked with were just as competent. We’d all been thru 3 months of training specifically on Verizon FIOS systems. Many of us had also worked DSL tech support for years and even dial-up support before that.
We had the authority to do whatever it took to fix your problem. Sometimes we ended up crawling thru Windows configuration. Other times we’d end up creating custom LAN configurations or swapping out cabling or suggesting replacing a LAN card. Occasionally a system would simply be dead or too old to support. If a router looked bad, it got replaced.
We were paid well. Probably less than we could have gotten elsewhere but more than most. Everyone remembered the localized ten-year recession that resulted from the peace dividend at the end of the cold war and aerospace went into the toilet. When you find a decent job with a major corporation, you stick with it. Security rules.
That was then, this is now. Over the years the job got more automated. Scripts and checklists and algorithms replaced human thought. Sales and marketing and billing got added in. Tech support became customer support and anything requiring brains had to be referred. Upselling you on a “better” system was the preferred solution to everything. FiOS was sold to Frontier. Two years ago, I retired.
I still know people who work for Frontier. At least they have not outsourced everything to foreign soil. (Just a lot of it.)
The next time I call support, the lights on the router won’t come on, no matter what I do. They will probably charge me for the replacement because this one is out of warranty.
Oh well. It is what it is.