Life Without Internet

The house Internet connection is provided by a Fixed Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP). Unlike a cable modem, the local customer provided equipment (CPE) is outdoors, on a tower, located about 65 feet above ground. The CPE connects by radio signal to an access point (AP) on a tower located about one mile away. The CPE is powered from a small Power Over Ethernet (POE) module, which is indoors. The service contract includes Voice Over Internet telephone.

Much of the WISP’s infrastructure is Linux based.

Most of the time the Internet connection just works.

Most of the time.

This winter has been horrible. This area has seen two major snow storms, followed by an unwelcome thaw. Add a nasty wind storm and then another snow storm with mixed rain and snow. Thaws and rain in the winter are not welcomed because the result is heavy wet snow and when temperatures drop below freezing, ice.

Through the years the electric grid in this area has been dependable with few outages. Yet this winter there have been three electrical outages. The first was about 26 hours. The second was about 2.5 hours. The third was about 15 hours.

The electric lines sometimes don’t survive the heavy wet snow and ice, trees or branches snapping, or vehicles skidding into poles. Miserable outdoor conditions. I don’t envy the folks who respond and repair the broken lines.

Each electrical outage that lasts longer than approximately one hour means a loss of Internet at the house. The uninterruptible power supply (UPS) at the WISP tower lasts about one hour.

The outages are a subtle reminder of the fragility of human existence. The outages are inconvenient, but wood heat keeps the house snug.

Human fallibility can add to the inconvenience, even with some humor. Despite the restoration of electrical power after the most recent outage, there was no Internet connection. That wasn’t traumatic. There are other things to do. Some hours later the loss of Internet looked suspicious. Time to check the basics.

Checking during night hours, the CPE exhibited a nominal LED glow. The CPE had power. The meant the Ethernet cable from the POE module to the CPE was connected. Confirming, the POE module LED was on, but that inspection raised eyebrows.

Usually the POE module is mounted to the wall with a Velcro(R) pad but this POE module is attached with duct tape. Checking connections revealed that during the most recent outage the POE module fell from the wall mount to the floor. A coincidence the duct tape adhesive weakened sufficiently during the outage. Fresh duct tape resolved the issue. Despite locking Ethernet connectors, somehow during this handling the house LAN side cable loosened at the POE module. Pushing the connector ever so slightly resulted in a familiar “click” sound.

Internet restored.

A new Velcro(R) pad should prevent the event in the future.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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