I could use smoke signals. Those are wireless.
July 20, 2012 8:16 AM   Subscribe

My Internet connection is terrible. All efforts at tech support have failed. Could switching companies fix the problem? Details inside.

My home connection uses Verizon's FiOS fiber-optic service. It's great when it's working, but whenever I do anything that requires a constant stream of data – downloading large files, playing a game online, uploading my music to Google - the connection is likely to drop out, and nothing other than rebooting or power-cycling the model (which is also my wireless router) will get it back. The weird thing is that neither the modem nor my computer “knows” the connection is gone – the PC reports that it has Internet access, and the “Internet” light on the modem remains green.

Verizon has sent me two new modems, one of which was a completely different model. They've sent a tech out to examine the lines and on-site hardware; he replaced the box that connects the house to the network. Nothing makes a difference. At this point, the company is blaming the fact that I and my upstairs neighbor (I live downstairs in a split-level home) each have a separate Internet connection and wireless network; they think the two are interfering with each other somehow. Both of us connect through FiOS; the house has two separate lines going into it. But that doesn't make sense to me: If this setup, where people living on different floors of the same structure each have their own Internet connections and modems, disrupted service so dramatically, then it would be impossible to get a personal Interweb connection in an apartment building. And yet that is possible. Maybe it's something specific to FiOS?

(And it's not just the wireless; my desktop is connected to the modem by Ethernet cable, and it's equally affected)

At this point I've pretty much given up on Verizon fixing the problem and would like to switch carriers. It doesn't help that they charge me sixty bucks a month to not be able to play Diablo or upload my music anymore. My question is: if there really is some disruption coming from my neighbor's connection, is switching to cable Internet likely to avoid that disruption? I'd gladly go back to DSL if I could, but that's not an option in my area.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish to Technology (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Cable has it's own problems, being a one-to-many connection, but it might be worth a try.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:29 AM on July 20, 2012

Hold it - is your wired connection dropping out, or the wireless from the FIOS modem?
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:35 AM on July 20, 2012

Response by poster: Everything is dropping. During an outage, if the company tries to ping the modem they get no response.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:37 AM on July 20, 2012

Based solely on the limited information here, I suspect that it might be a problem with the DNS settings on Verizon's DHCP server. One way to check that hypothesis is to test what happens when you flip to Google's open DNS settings (‎ & and see if you are still having the same outages.

A more complicated but also more foolproof way to test this hypothesis is to check if you can pull up websites by entering their IP addresses into Internet explorer when this problem occurs. If you can pull up a website using the IP address (but can't pull up that same website when you enter the www.(name).com address) then it's a DNS error for sure and switching your provider ought to resolve this.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:41 AM on July 20, 2012

First, rule out the wireless interference nonsense; hook one computer into your router directly via cable, and do some of those extended data loads that typically triggers the behavior. If the behavior continues, you've ruled out wireless issues, and if the behavior does not happen, you have wireless issues.

If you have wireless issues, work with your neighbor to ensure that one of you is on channel 1 and one of you is on channel 6 or higher, and you should be able to solve them.

If you do not have wireless issues, try the DNS trick (still wired) as outlined above. If the problem is gone, then it was the DNS and you can keep using google's DNS, or openDNS (which I use to escape similar problems.)

If you do not have DNS issues, either, then it is either your computer or your provider. Borrow a friend's computer (ideally a Mac if you have Windows or vice versa, to rule out OS-specific issues with your router.) Perform the same tests, and if you rule out your computer (ie the problems persist with this other computer), then switch providers.
posted by davejay at 8:54 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I went from DSL (a really high-quality provider) to Cable (a really low-quality provider, if you were to read reviews online) and my connectivity (other than the DNS issue noted) has been terrific, as well as much higher speeds. So there's some anecdotal data.
posted by davejay at 8:55 AM on July 20, 2012

Response by poster: I should note that the heavy use that triggers an outage is almost always coming via wired connection. And again, the connection that dies is the link between the modem and the Internet, not from any individual computer to the modem.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:58 AM on July 20, 2012

FiOS should be extremely fast and not suffer from congestion issues. It sounds like Verizon is not willing to fix this problem for you, and blaming it on your neighbor is a red herring. If they don't want to fix it, take your business elsewhere.
posted by zsazsa at 9:14 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Entirely eliminate the wireless network from the equation. Turn the wired network off at the router. Now do the heavy Internet stuff on your computer. If the situation still occurs, call your ISP and say you have reproduced the problem with just one device and no wireless network, and could they look at your modem's connection history and see what's up.

I would also run a ping from this computer to a) your router's address, and b) Verizon's gateway, which is in their side of your modem's connection, to verify where the connection fails. And also to see if it's an issue of high latency, dropped packets, or no packets at all.

Be patient and persistent, and make it as easy as possible for them to look at their own hardware.
posted by zippy at 9:29 AM on July 20, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, I can get into the modem during an outage with no problem. Resetting it through the browser works just as well as powercycling.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:38 AM on July 20, 2012

One way to check what is actually going on would be to do a constant ping flood of a known up server, like Im assuming your using some windows flavor, in which case you should hit start, click run, type cmd, and then in the command line type "ping -t" unless thats my linux messing with my brain in which case it would actually be "ping /t"

What this will do is send out a constant stream of little packets, and when they get where their going, you get sent a response with the time that it took to go round trip. If your connections is good, there should just be a stream that looks like this:

PING ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=46 time=42.202 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=46 time=51.638 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=46 time=43.478 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=46 time=42.005 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=46 time=44.323 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=5 ttl=46 time=47.088 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=6 ttl=46 time=41.405 ms
--- ping statistics ---
7 packets transmitted, 7 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 41.405/44.591/51.638/3.375 ms

While this is running in the background, start a large file transfer that would 'normally' take the line down for you. Do you see dropped packets? When the rest of the download fails are you still getting a ping response? Once you know the answer to these questions, diagnosing your connection should be a lot easier. Feel free to PM me if you try this (I fix a lot of peoples internet connections).
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 9:38 AM on July 20, 2012

Another thing you could do to get some information is start pinging your router and then try and take the network down with a large file.
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 9:51 AM on July 20, 2012

During an outage, if the company tries to ping the modem they get no response.

(Good lord, people aren't listening to the words you are saying.)

If you can ping the modem from your end, and they cannot ping it from their end, the problem is theirs. End of story. It could be the cable that goes into the modem, or anything further upstream. But if the modem's lights don't change and everything looks just fine, just that data doesn't pass, then the problem is further upstream. And they should know this. The way to fight is to keep pestering them. Ask for the ticket to be escalated. Sometimes writing the better business bureau gets fast action, as does writing to their website's customer service email address.

Heavy usage: can you actually trigger an outage whenever you want by downloading a large file? Or does it just seem to correlate?

Cable has it's own problems, being a one-to-many connection, but it might be worth a try.

Everything is a one-to-many connection, it just depends where the split is. And coax has lots of different channels that it uses for data. Just because it's the same wire doesn't mean you might not have a channel all to yourself. (Plus, I'd rather share a 38mbps channel with a few people than have a 1.5mbps channel all to myself.) Like all different ISP technologies, they work only as well as the local company has implemented it. If they used good practices when setting up your neighborhood, then it will be fine. If they didn't, it will suck. Give it a try.
posted by gjc at 10:19 AM on July 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Does your upstairs neighbor have the same problem? If she doesn't, the problem is in your unit or with your inside wiring, router, etc. That would be the first thing I would eliminate.
posted by cnc at 11:52 AM on July 20, 2012

So when you log on to the router it says "Broadband Status: Connected", even when you're having the problem? There is likely a diagnostics page somewhere (possibly under Advanced if it's anything like the Verizon router I have) where you can use the router to ping Google's DNS server at If that works, your router really is connected to the Internet and the problem is likely elsewhere.

These large transfers, do they involve BitTorrent by chance? If so, set your client to not make so many simultaneous connections and you may see some improvement.
posted by wierdo at 3:18 AM on July 21, 2012

Sounds like it could be the ont on the side of your hosue. Have they tried replacing it?

This is the first time I am hearing of problems like this with fios.

HMM . This might be to technical but is your neighborhood bpon or gpon?

I am thinking this could be a congestion issueon your node. Yes fios only has 32 users per node if all users have say the 50 package and use their conenction at once you could get these issues.

Sounds like verizon is not thinking about congestion issues when updating their internet speeds.

this is an interesting problem
posted by majortom1981 at 8:13 AM on July 21, 2012

How is your fios router conencted to the ont outside? IS it ethernet or coax? Some people on the dslreports fios section suggest switching the connection to ethernet. Its something verizon might have to do.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:18 AM on July 21, 2012

They also state it should be free to convert your ont to actiontek connection from coax to ethernet.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:25 AM on July 21, 2012

Response by poster: I tested out IPs and it's not a DNS thing. It can't see any of the Internet no matter how I tell it to look.

They have replaced the ONT. If anything it got worse. Nine or ten outages this morning. No idea about BPON/GPON. The ONT is connected through coax - the only ethernet in the equation is the cable going from the modem to my PC.

I did manage to get more information on the "disruption," though, and now that's looking less like a clear-cut excuse: Apparently the interference isn't from the wireless but in the actual cable - the wiring for the upstairs and downstairs portions of the split-level isn't completely separate, which creates unpredictable results when they run separate service to the apartments. This worries me, because it seems like that would create problems for any cable-based Internet, whether it's FiOS or not - something that runs through the phone lines would presumably be fine, but as mentioned this area is too good for DSL.

Of course, then I spent an hour on the phone this morning with tech support and they said it's more likely to be "interference" from my cell phone, despite the fact that outages happen when the phone is in another room, out of the house or out of the state. (*boughBULLSHITcough*) Escalation didn't help. I can't believe I'm preparing to give money to Comcast again, but Jesus Christ this is ridiculous.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:29 AM on July 21, 2012

What it looks like is that you need the router to be connected to the ont via ethernet.


The coax connection the actiontech to the ont cannot handle the higher speeds. This is not the coax connecting your boxes to the router but the router to the ont on the side of your house. (the wan conenction).
posted by majortom1981 at 8:41 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah, one of you needs to switch to Ethernet. Verizon, in their infinite wisdom, uses a fixed frequency between the ONT and the router when you're using coax. The MoCA connection is plenty fast if there isn't any interference (about 85Mbps full duplex in the original standard, a bit more in the more recent iterations), but in your case there is interference. The Ethernet line gives you a direct path to your ONT, so no problem.

Cable won't work for you if the wiring between the units really is connected together somewhere.

You could check for any obvious interconnection between the two systems if you either really want to switch to Comcast or Verizon hassles you about running an Ethernet line.
posted by wierdo at 11:55 PM on July 21, 2012

Response by poster: That sounds like a plan. I've got a tech coming out later this week, and I'll yell at him about switching to ethernet.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:38 AM on July 22, 2012

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