Problems with Internet connection. My ISP is blaming my cable modem.
June 2, 2014 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Time Warner is telling me that I need to buy a new cable modem. I would like a second opinion.

I use Time Warner for my Internet connection. I pay extra for the “Turbo” level of service. For a few months now, I’ve been experiencing intermittent problems with packet loss. Here’s what happens: Every hour or so (roughly), I’ll experience about 5 minutes of a really terrible connection, with about 15% packet loss. Then the problem resolves spontaneously, until it happens again approximately an hour later. Power-cycling everything doesn’t help. And the problem occurs whether the modem is connected directly to my PC or to my wireless router.

The last few times I’ve called Time Warner’s tech support, they’ve been able to solve the problem (temporarily) by doing a remote reset of the modem. They told me that this is called “Sending an AD hit followed by a balancing hit”. Unfortunately, though, this solution only lasts a few weeks.

Today, when I called the help line, the tech ended up concluding that the problem is with my modem. I have a white Motorola SurfBoard SB6141 that I bought (new) only ten months ago. The firmware version is SB_KOMODO- (dated Mar 12 2013 17:48:19). Apparently, there is a newer version of the firmware, but the tech told me that Time Warner will not upgrade firmware for modems that are owned by the customer. Also, as far as I can tell, there is no way for the end-user to upgrade the firmware. After doing a bunch of checks of my local circuit, the tech advised me to buy a new modem, or start renting one again.

I took a screen-capture of the signal levels I'm seeing. The Time Warner tech didn’t sound very knowledgeable, and I’m not entirely convinced that the modem is really the culprit here. I can provide any other information that people request. Thanks.
posted by akk2014 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is exactly me and comcast about one year ago. I ended up keeping my old modem (which I had JUST bought) and they were all teh dramaz at me because it's not the modem and since I own it not them they can't upgrade it.

I'm just dealing with it. Nothing I do at home is important enough to require constant best internet (I stream, but not like netflix-binge level), I'm not really home that much anyway, and I've got a phone and a tablet with 4G to tide me over.

Sorry that doesn't help in terms of solvability, but I just wanted to chime in and say that comcast says this is my problem, too, so maybe it is what's going on.
posted by phunniemee at 10:56 AM on June 2, 2014

You've probably seen it already, but here's a long thread about the TWC/SB6141 combo: SB6141 Firmware Update? (the answer is no, but there's plenty of discussion about signal levels etc).
posted by effbot at 12:11 PM on June 2, 2014

Response by poster: effbot -- thanks. I had not seen that thread. I skimmed it just now. As I understand it, my best option now is to buy a new modem that's not a Motorola modem. Either that, or go back to renting from Time Warner (which I'd rather not do). Do you agree?
posted by akk2014 at 12:33 PM on June 2, 2014

Your Surfboard should still be under some sort of warranty, I assume. I would engage Motorola and see if they can send a warranty replacement with the newest firmware or perhaps they can help upgrade it. Looking at the 1 star Amazon reviews for this modem, it appears a lot of TWC people have problems though it could simply be the shear amount of data.

Other than that, you could get a new Surfboard from Wally Mart, try it out for a short time and return it in a couple of weeks when you've determined that the modem is or isn't the problem. I should hope they are carrying Surfboards with FW later than 03/13.
posted by dozo at 12:40 PM on June 2, 2014

Hmm, appears that the firmware is only upgraded by the ISP. Perhaps escalate it up to third tier support? Found here:

"Because DOCSIS uses a shared medium where bad firmware on one modem can easily cause problems for all 150-300 people on a node, firmware is managed by the network provider."


"You can't upgrade the firmware in a cable modem from the "customer side" and the makers only release firmware to the MSOs (cable operators), so you can't even find it online anywhere."
posted by dozo at 12:46 PM on June 2, 2014

I've been seeing similar complaints popping-up all over involving the big ISPs. The suggested "fix" almost uniformly is for the consumer to start leasing the ISP's gateway device. It certainly makes one wonder if the big ISPs aren't somehow poisoning the performance of non-company modems.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:10 PM on June 2, 2014

One other option (play their game) could be to rent the modem, but only temporarily to see if the problem continues on their equipment. If it ends up really being a wiring issue, it'll be a little work to then get a refund for the rental fees after they fix the wiring...but you could essentially return the rental and go back to using your own from that point forward. I've had to do this in the past with my cable provider, Comcast, and just ate a month's worth of rental costs (which is ~$6 a month from them, chalked it up to the price of doing business with a monopoly).
posted by samsara at 6:24 AM on June 4, 2014

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