DSL woes

We've had very patchy Frontier DSL connectivity for over a week now. 

It's uncanny that the DSL can work so flawlessly, so invisibly, that we take it for granted. But when connections are dropped and apps that normally update instantly instead stall out, then frustration rises.

I should say that everyone I've dealt with -- Frontier's telephone customer support and technicians -- have been polite, respectful, and seem knowledgeable as they work through their troubleshooting steps.

Here's what has happened since that first call:

  • The first customer support person did all the standard checks and nothing worked. She created a trouble ticket. (We've learned from past experience with Frontier that a trouble ticket number is crucial to getting some action taken.)
  • The first technician checked the lines and the signal was strong. He replaced the ADSL filter on the phone jack in my office (the only phone jack we use in the house).
  • He helped me set up a newer-model modem we got from Frontier in 2016 during another patchy DSL period. The connectivity problem at that time mysteriously resolved itself so we kept on with the old modem. If it ain't broke, etc.
  • Even the technician had trouble activating the modem. So it was good I didn't try it myself.
  • He introduced me to Speedtest.net, which Frontier techs like to use to test the line. I installed the free Speedtest app for my iMac, also. Works great.
  • I had 10 trouble-free minutes of internet and then it slowed and got patchy again.
  • We tried accessing either the Airport Time Capsule and the Frontier modem's wifi networks, with disappointing results. The Time Capsule has been our default wifi/router for the past three years and has given us no trouble.
  • Called customer support this morning, fiddled with the modem settings per her instructions, and no joy. (She suggested I replace the 10' cord running from the jack to the modem with a 6' cord. The sys admin guys at work laughed their heads off when I told them that.)
  • The second technician met me at the house a couple of hours later (same-day service!). He rewired the box outside so only the one phone jack is connected to the DSL line. Prior to that, all four phone jacks in the house were receiving data.
  • Both technicians reported that the signal coming to the house and from the jack is strong.
  • The second technician's hypothesis was that the Frontier modem installed last week had wireless turned on, and its signal was interfering with the Airport Time Capsule's signal. So when we experimented last week with first one wifi signal and then the other, we made the problem worse because those signals were colliding and slowing all traffic down. He turned off the Frontier's wireless signal.

The connection is still patchy, unfortunately. When the connection is up, the speed is acceptable. But the connection is not stable; we're losing connectivity a couple of times an hour -- sometimes a brief hiccup, other times for 20 minutes -- which renders the download speed (we're provisioned for 3 mbps) a moot point.

Today's technician really thought the problem was the Time Capsule. I pushed back on that. Why would it suddenly go wonky after three years of no problems?

Our set up is this:

  • Phone cord from the jack to the modem. 
  • Ethernet cable from the modem to the Airport Time Capsule. The TC broadcasts the wifi signal.
  • Another Ethernet cable from the TC to my iMac. This effectively wires my iMac to the modem; I can turn off the iMac's wifi and still access the internet.

I prefer having a wired connection to the modem so I can verify whether the patchy connectivity is coming from the wifi or the modem. If Liz's iPad loses connectivity, I can verify via Speedtest whether I've also lost connectivity. If I have, the problem is the signal from the modem, not the Time Capsule.

Liz and I are both getting our internet via the Time Capsule (she via wireless, me via wired), so it could be the weak link. But I'm more suspicious of the Frontier modem. We're an Apple household and I'm frankly loathe to believe this problem lies with the Time Capsule.

Connectivity is better today than yesterday, but not as stable as it was two weeks ago. We will give it a day or two under the normal stresses of email, transactions, streaming video, downloading, etc. 

Until I can take my connectivity for granted again, I will likely roam the Frontier for some time to come.

Michael E Brown @brownstudy