Wonky Internet Connection

My Internet connection went wonky.

I have connected to the Internet for many years through a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP). For the past few years I have monitored the connection with cron jobs running ping tests and an intranet speed test. I dump the speed test data into a text file. Using a shell script and gnuplot I create some nice weekly graphs.

I had no complaints until recently. Then, suddenly my connection speeds varied all over the place. Manually running tests I saw no consistency at all. Even during non-peak times when there is little to no congestion with the wireless access point.

I started troubleshooting. Quickly I found that eliminating the surge suppressor restored most of the expected connectivity. I was informed I no longer needed the surge suppressor as the Power-Over-Internet (POE) module provided the same protection.

The WISP owner remained unsatisfied. The wired connection to the Customer Provided Equipment (CPE), which contains the radio to connect to the access poiont, should have been a 100 Mbps connection. We were seeing 10 Mbps.

Together we continued investigating. With winter now upon us, the first item on the suspect list was the outdoor CAT-5e cable. Possibly cracked sheathing that allowed water and ice seepage. The cable has been installed for many years. A single straight-through connection test revealed the cable was fine. I was relieved no outdoor work would be required.

That meant the problem was indoor. Working our way through the entire indoor connection we found a faulty POE. I was informed the POEs often failed in this intermittent manner rather than failing hard.

We still had only 10 Mbps. We replaced two cables that were as old as the outdoor cable. One from the POE to my first network switch and the other from the POE to the wall plate, which is connected to the outdoor cable.

Finally the connection to the CPE was 100 Mbps.

Later I tested the cables. The cable running from the POE to the wall plate was bad. The cable running from the switch to the POE was good.

In all we discovered three problems, each masking the other. As the surge suppressor connected to the POE, which connected to the wall plate, something happened that caused all three to fail. We can only guess the actual chain of events.

For those who are curious, no, I do not have a 100 Mbps wireless connection. That speed is only to the CPE, not fully through the access point to the backhaul. My actual connection speed is about 11.5 Mbps down and about 4 Mbps up.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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