Posted by: Frank | January 2, 2010

Happy New Year! It’s Good To Be Back Online

Well, after a month of being away from the home office in West Bloomfield, MI, we made it back from Colorado this past week. Ruth made it home first because she had to work and Monday morning Ruth called asking me how to get the Cave back online, as she couldn’t connect to the Internet. I suspected the problem was that during our absence there was a power outage that caused the home network to not restart as it should, so I walked Ruth through the process of restarting the cable modem and then the home router that connects the rest of our network to the Internet.

Unfortunately, we found that a simple restart would not do, and at that point we began a time of frustrating troubleshooting because I couldn’t see what Ruth was seeing and I couldn’t exactly remember how the LEDs on the cable modem look during normal operation. One thing that I have done since is to take pictures of these components and uploaded them to Evernote so that I can look them up in the future where I am located. (Note, a good use of Evernote!)

Monday turned out to be a lost day for Ruth, and I thought that the problem was on Comcast’s side rather than in our house, so I told Ruth to call Comcast. She tried some of the troubleshooting tips that Comcast provided on their phone, but didn’t have the patience to wait to talk with someone. On Tuesday she went to the local library to work while we waited for Comcast to restore their service. I returned home Wednesday evening and noticed that while the cable modem indicated it had a connection, I couldn’t pull up any web pages. When I pinged, I saw either dropped responses or very slow responses. Thursday morning I tried resetting the cable modem a few times, and even tried connecting the cable modem directly to my laptop to confirm the problem wasn’t with my router before I called Comcast to talk with an agent. The agent attempted some things on her side, but concluded that the problem was in my home and so we scheduled a service call for Saturday morning.

At this point I was certain the problem wasn’t with my router and I expected that the cable modem had gone bad. My suspicion was supported by comments made by the Comcast agent I talked with on the phone who said she was seeing errors on the modem. The tech arrived Saturday morning as scheduled and spent an hour testing cable connections and ruled them out before deciding to replace the cable modem. He told me that in their training they are told that problems are almost never with the equipment, which in this case caused him to spend more than an hour ruling everything out. I somewhat understand the approach given that it very likely there are cable connection problems either inside or outside the home. Since I live in a condo, I have had instances where my cable service went out because a tech had accidentally disconnected it while fixing another customer’s problem. On the other hand, it would have been much faster to test the service using a known, functioning modem (plug it into power, plug in the cable and observe) rather than walking through all the cable connections with the cable tester. If after you plugged in the good modem service wasn’t restored, you pretty much know the problem has to be with the connections, either the cables inside or outside the home, or on Comcast’s network. If service is restored then you know the problem is with the modem and you can quickly replace the old modem and go on your way.

The end result is that we now have a new Cable modem. I also observed the provisioning process that required the tech to activate the new modem at our house, answering a question of whether I could buy my own cable modem to replace the one I “rent” for $5 per month from Comcast. Clearly, I can’t just replace Comcast’s modem with my own and have it work.

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