What To Do When The Internet Stops Working

What To Do When The Internet Stops WorkingIt all started with overnight alerts from my Honeywell RTH9580WF Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat telling me the system was unavailable.  That’s the first time I ever got those types of alerts.  I immediately jumped into the Nest App to view one of several Nest Cam indoor cameras.  Yup, my internet was down in my second home and I wasn’t planning to be there again for several weeks.

Now, I would have expected the Nest Cams to tell me about this via email alerts as I have it setup to do that but they never did.  I have not looked into the cause of this but plan to do that in the future.  I would have eventually figured it out as I check my cameras daily.

You forget how dependent we get on the internet being available until something like this happens.  I control my climate, lighting and home security cameras using the internet.  Thankfully, my home security system is not dependent upon the internet as well.

Modem Issues

The first call to make when this happens is your ISP.  So my first call went to Comcast, the provider of internet services in this part of Florida.  They confirmed there was no outage in this area and then asked a rather silly question.  Do you have a modem?

Of course I have a modem, in fact, it’s the same one that has been in use for over three years.  They responded their system had no record of a modem.  In fact, the MAC address field in their database was completely void of any information.

They said it was an easy fix and that I just needed to give them the MAC address.  That’s easy when you are physically in the place where the modem is located.  It’s impossible when you are in a different state.  So I was out of the water until I could physically get to my second home.

The default Comcast modem / router is problematic for people that attach a lot of devices to their wireless network.  I use the ARRIS SURFboard SB6121 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem along with a Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router and it’s been flawless.  Well, that is until now although technically it’s a Comcast issue, not a problem with the hardware selection.

Always power cycle the modem and router when there’s a failure like this.  That’s what I did when I arrived a few week later and as expected, it didn’t help.  If there’s no MAC address in the Comcast database, it’s not likely going to work.

So I called Comcast, gave them the MAC address and the problem was fixed.  I learned the importance of keeping this information on hand so snapped a photo of the bottom of the modem where the MAC address is located.  I also had the Comcast technician put the MAC address into the comments on my account in case this happened again.  For the record, Comcast could not explain how this happened.

Internet Kind of Works

In some cases, you may find that the wireless part of the internet isn’t working as well as it used to.  The issue might be solved by experimenting with your router settings.

Some routers and cameras support dual bands of wireless.  The older default 2.4 GHz band is excellent for longer distances but can be very crowded.  Your neighbor’s router, even some of your wireless home phones, may indeed share the same frequencies.

You can check the usage of wireless frequencies and channels using applications such as WiFiAnalyzer.  Use the Channel Analyzer feature to see who else is sharing the frequencies and channels.  If your channel is shared by a neighbor, it might be a good idea to choose a new (and unused) channel.  The screen shot from WiFiAnalyzer is what you see in the photo that accompanies this article.

The 5 GhZ Band

This newer and lightly used channel is ideal for shorter distances.  The throughput is better than 2.4 GHz but it breaks down over longer distances.  It’s only supported by a handful of home security cameras.  Fortunately a few of our favorites support 5 GHz including Nest Cam and the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro.  Use this band if possible.

Range Extenders

A range extender is good for sending the wireless signal further than what you get from the wireless router.  A wireless extender is like a bridge to your wireless router.  I use the Netgear N600 Wall Plug Version Wi-Fi Range Extender and it helps a lot.  This extender supports the 2.4 and 5 GHz network.

Another type of extension is called a Powerline Adapter.  This extender plugs into your home or office A/C outlet and uses the electrical cabling to extend the network.   The Netgear Powerline Essentials Edition attaches to your home or office router and a second adapter plugs elsewhere into the same home or office.  Be sure to avoid using a power outlet as that will cause issues with reliability.

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