Internet connection is not working properly but Comcast says it isn't them. Help!
February 24, 2010 9:17 AM   Subscribe

My internet connection has always had issues, but recently those issues have gotten exponentially worse. Comcast is the only constant in this equation, but they claim that the signal they're sending is strong! I need it fixed ASAP, what can I try?

I've been experiencing a very frustrating problem for several years now, and in the last few days it has gotten exponentially worse.

From time to time, my connection to the internet seems to go down. I have comcast broadband as my ISP, a Netgear wireless router, and several connected items (2 PCs, occasionally 1 laptop, a Wii, and an Xbox 360 - the PCs and Xbox are connected to the router via an ethernet cable, and the rest connect wirelessly). When my connection appears to go down, all of my devices are affected, but the modem still shows a connection and a signal. Usually if I unplug the router and plug it back in, it solves the problem temporarily, but sometimes its less than an hour before the connection goes down again. Sometimes I don't do anything and the connection appears to restore itself within a minute or two, but usually I have to reset the router. When the downtime fixes itself, I often will get a "connection to the server has been reset" error during the downtime.

You would think that the weak point here would be the wireless router, but I have tried two different routers and two different router brands (my previous router was a Linksys), and the same issue occurs on both. In fact, I used to live in an apartment that is downstairs in my building, and the problem occured there as well, with two different modems! I seemed to not experience the problem when I plugged the modem directly in to the computer, which would also point to the router, but then why would I experience the same problem with different brands and models of routers?

So the problem is the same despite different devices, different routers, different locations, and different modems. The only constant has been Comcast, but when I call them they swear up and down that the signal strength is strong and that I shouldn't be experiencing problems.

That brings us to the last few days, when things have gotten much worse. I am now experiencing connection drop-offs (the ones that fix themselves) every 2-3 minutes, and when the internet is up, the speed is extremely slow. I also tried plugging two separate PCs directly in to the modem, one by one, and it can't even get a connection at all, not even a bad one. Once again, Comcast swears its not their signal (and they're sending a technician out next week) but it's making life pretty painful right now and tomorrow I need to have the ability to work from home.

Can anyone please give me any advice? Help!
posted by etherealclarity to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well it sounds like you have narrowed things down and done a lot of investigating. Hopefully the tech will find something odd.

You don't have your location listed, but Comcast is rolling out a big upgrade nationwide called "Project Cavalry," and there have been some performance issues of late out here in Central California that are pegging the work being done to roll it out as the culprit.
posted by Big_B at 9:22 AM on February 24, 2010

Wow that last sentence doesn't sound right, but I think the message is portrayed.
posted by Big_B at 9:23 AM on February 24, 2010

If you can't get a connection when plugged directly into the modem, it's not a problem with the router. Things it could be: crappy devices (you tried several, so probably not), crappy cabling (try new cables), crappy power supplies (hard to know...), dying modem.
posted by beerbajay at 9:23 AM on February 24, 2010

Maybe it's the router settings? I've seen a similar issue with comcast (at least in Maryland) and the phone technicians told me that they don't "support" multiple connections unless you are using their routers (this may or may not be true, it's been a few years). Turning on MAC address cloning in the router has resolved it (well, in 2 of 2 cases).

Here's the first link I could find, steps will vary based on your router model.
posted by syntheticfaith at 9:30 AM on February 24, 2010

If you can figure out the IP address for your modem while connected to your router (I'm away from home but I think mine is, the login and password is often "comcast" / "1234". You can get various measures of signal strength reported on the status page and check them against something like dslreports posts to get a sense of whether comcast is bullshitting you. Bear in mind that these numbers are not comprehensive and may not even be reliable.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:31 AM on February 24, 2010

I had a similar problem with Verizon DSL for about 3 years. Verizon swore over and over again that they could not be the problem. The connection would randomly drop for a few minutes several times a day. I tried 2 or 3 different wireless routers, went through a couple of modems, all the steps you are taking.

So I'm guessing that it was just a weird coincidence that the problem went away for good when I switched to a different DSL provider.

The moral being it very well may be Comcast.
posted by COD at 9:42 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had an issue with a client with cable internet whereas it would go down or become heavily degraded at absolutely random times. Turned out, after months of troubleshooting and escalation, that it was only happening when a bar down the street was turning its cable TV on.

Most ISP will assume its a problem on your end and give you the run around. You need to plug a desktop directly into your cable modem (it will require a power cycle to associate with your desktop) and test the connection from there.
run a constant ping to two different endpoints (ping -t and ping -t) and let it run for a while noting the packet loss (results will be displayed if you hit ctrl + c)
If you have no or little packet loss over and interval where you would normally lose connection, its probably your other hardware.
If you do note packet loss, call up your ISP, get your call escalated and explain to a tier 2 tech what you have done. Tell them you want someone to come out and put a monitor on the line to prove it is not your equipment but their line.
posted by mtyn at 9:56 AM on February 24, 2010

Are you using any torrenting software? That used to bog down my router and cause connection issues until I tweaked the settings the right way.
posted by FreezBoy at 10:33 AM on February 24, 2010

Try switching your DNS to OpenDNS or Google Public DNS. DNS is frequently the culprit with intermittent outages & slowness.
posted by scalefree at 10:35 AM on February 24, 2010

My mother-in-law had similar problems from summertime last year to earlier this year. Internet (Comcast) was cutting out randomly, Comcast swore it wasn't them, but it definitely wasn't us. Just an iMac (earlier it was a PC) connected directly to the modem, no router. Tried swapping modems, but that didn't help. After half a dozen calls, we finally we got a knowledgeable tech who realized that the MAC address for her modem had fallen off their list (or something like that?) sometime last summer, so the system was kicking her (with this unrecognized modem) off their network at random. They took down her modem's MAC address and re-entered it into the system, and I don't believe she's had a problem since. Apparently the low-level tech support can't add/change MAC addresses anymore, so we waited on hold for about 45 minutes to get a higher level of tech support to make this change.
posted by jroybal at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2010

Here's comcast's escalation information. I hate them and have had to use this way too many times (once is way too many, but it has been more than that over the past year and a half).

Tier 1 support and the line techs that come out are USELESS. Until you escalate, nothing will actually get done, except raise your blood pressure and frustrate you to no end.

Frank Eliason is a great pointman for escalating Comcast customer service issues, but what if he dies, gets promoted, a new job, or decides we're all just too annoying? Then you might want to have some backup executive customer service info:

Jim Weeder
Corporate Escalations
National Customer Service Deployment Center
720-268-8800 ext. 53233
1-800-718-7419 ext. 53233
posted by TheBones at 11:30 AM on February 24, 2010

TheBones: Frank has a whole team working for him now who seek out people reporting connection problems @comcastcares on twitter. They've been quite helpful when I needed comcast to replace a bad buried cable from the curb to my house.
posted by jrishel at 11:47 AM on February 24, 2010

How far is the cable modem from the point at which the cable enters the house?

several years ago I moved to a house with built-in cable wiring, and initially plugged the cable modem into some jack. I had problems very similar to what you describe.

After going back and forth with the cable company [Mediacom, Twin Cities, MN] with similar results ["We're sending a strong signal."] they sent out a tech. We realized that the signal coming out of that jack was very weak relative to what they were sending to the house [due to the distribution splitter[s] up in the attic]. We relocated the modem into the basement such that it was literally the first thing the incoming cable hit before feeding the house, and lo and behold the problems went away.
posted by chazlarson at 12:10 PM on February 24, 2010

When you change the device connected to the cable modem you need to powercycle the modem, it hangs onto the MAC address of whatever it was connected to until you powercycle.

Comcast tech support can see how long your modem has maintained sync with their network. If it was bouncing from the modem's side they would be able to detect that. Consumer routers are notoriusly headachey. I've been through 4 or 5 myself that had very similar issues.

Your true test here would be to powercycle the comcast modem, direct connect a computer, and do something that would generate constant network traffic and see whether you detect drops.
posted by uleekunkel at 12:11 PM on February 24, 2010

You seem to have the same problems with Comcast as me. Never have found a fix. Never had Comcast say anything useful on the matter. It's intermittent, so it's hard to get someone round when you are having the problem I'd say it's gotten better of late but then while i was working from home yesterday I got a whole bunch of badly timed drop outs, so I'm kind of ticked off about it.

DTMFA is probably the bets answer.
posted by Artw at 12:15 PM on February 24, 2010

Plug your laptop or one of the systems directly into the modem, recycle the modem (turn it off for a minute) and then plug the Ethernet into the computer.

if that works fine, then the problem is inside your network. If the problem is there, then it's comcast's - and they're not doing their due diligence. @ComcastCares on twitter 2nded.
posted by filmgeek at 12:30 PM on February 24, 2010

« Older Lord give me patience, but do it quick!   |   Tailor in State College Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.