Home > Uncategorized > Phone woes again, this time with Internet

Phone woes again, this time with Internet

Back in August, I posted about how my phone line went dead, and how worried I was about letting a repair person into my apartment, until it turned out he could fix the problem in the downstairs equipment room instead. Problem solved! Or so I thought.

I woke up Saturday morning to find the phone line dead again. Once again I e-mailed the phone company, and they sent a guy out on Monday. This guy wanted to come into my apartment until I told him the last guy had done his repairs downstairs. It seemed to work — except then my Internet connection started to get unstable, periodically dropping out, with the DSL and Internet lights on the modem going out.

Six hours later, the phone line went dead again — after which the Internet stabilized. The next day (Tuesday), they went back and forth — the phone line came back and the net became unstable again (and there was a crackling noise on the phone line on top of the dial tone), then later in the day the phone went out again and the net was fine. It was like they were interfering with each other somehow. But by that evening and into the next morning, the phone line was intermittently working and the net was fine.

So the third repair guy came on Wednesday and did his repairs downstairs — in fact, though he called in advance to ask about the problem, I didn’t even know he’d arrived until I got an automated call that afternoon asking what I thought of my service. He didn’t bother to check in or confirm the repair or anything, but both phone and Internet seemed to work just fine after that. In fact, the Internet connection was faster than it’s been in a while.

This morning, the Internet started dropping out again. Ugh. And after the third or fourth time I unplugged the modem and plugged it back in to reboot it… the phone line went dead again! Huh????

So I called them again, and they tell me they can’t get a tech out here until Monday. I called Friday morning, before 10 AM, and they still couldn’t get anyone out here today, even though this is an ongoing problem that they’ve repeatedly failed to fix.

I’m still nervous about the idea of letting someone into my apartment what with COVID risks, but at this point I’ll accept it if it actually gets the problem diagnosed. I should be reasonably okay as long as I wear a mask and ventilate the apartment effectively. Really, it shouldn’t take that long to completely exchange the air in my 480 square foot apartment, right?

So anyway, I tried looking up things that could cause an Internet connection to drop out. Most of them don’t seem applicable, because the connection was mostly fine until last Saturday. There had been a time a few months back when the connection became unstable for an hour or so in the mornings but was back to normal by 11 or 12. I figured maybe it was some outside interference, like that recent story about the guy whose old TV was shutting down a whole town’s Internet. But that hasn’t been happening for a while.

Still, there was one thing I couldn’t entirely dismiss as a possibility. Apparently a modem can lose its connection if it overheats. Now, I think my modem is pretty well-ventilated. Due to the distance between my computer desk and my phone jack, I need to have the modem on the floor by my bookcases, and I keep it upright on its side, with both its broadest faces exposed to the air. And it’s right underneath my ceiling fan, which I keep going pretty much constantly when I’m awake and at home. Still, the way it drops out seems like it could be consistent with overheating — namely, it tends to drop out when I’m trying to access a page that’s slow to load, as if it’s processing a lot of data and overheats from doing so. And sometimes, it seems more likely to stabilize if I walk away from the computer for a while, which could be giving it time to cool down. I haven’t had the opportunity to test whether it feels warmer when it drops out, though, because I only just read about this as a possibility.

Still, it doesn’t add up. Why would it be a modem heating problem if my modem was working just fine (usually) until the first failed phone repair attempt on Monday? Could it be that some interference or slowdown elsewhere in the phone/DSL wiring is somehow forcing my modem to work harder and heat up more? And what could be causing the phone and DSL lines to interfere with each other? And why can’t they fix it?

These are not rhetorical questions. I’m open to any informed replies on the subject.

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  1. October 2, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    Interesting point you raise about modem ventilation. I haven’t had that kind of problem yet with my newest modem, but you’ve got me wondering what sort of preventive fix I can/should put in place now.

    • October 2, 2020 at 3:15 pm

      For what it’s worth, I tried blowing a fan into the modem vents for a few moments in hopes of dislodging dust, and the connection has remained stable for several hours since then. I can’t be sure if there’s a correlation, though, because there has been a pattern of stretches of total stability interspersed with stretches of frequent disconnection.

  2. Kevin
    October 5, 2020 at 1:46 am

    You stated when you unplugged your modem that the phone line dropped out. If it’s still out what happens when you unplug your modem and leave it unplugged? Or if you just unplug the phone line from the modem? Does your phone line come back?

    How old is the modem or have you had it a long time? Overtime time electronic components within any device can be affected by a multitude of different factors. Age, use, power surges, unstable power, heat, and dust (including hair and fabric or carpet fibers). Some of this factors can cause components to break down or over time and can cause erratic behavior.

    Your modem has no internal fan so it’s just air cooled by the ambient temps in your home. If you home is warm and/or there is an excessive build up of dust in the device it could cause overheating. You could try pointing a fan directly on the device to see if it helps.

    It could be an issue with the phone lines or along the DSL connections between your home and another. Overall it could be best to just allow the technician into your home so they can diagnose the condition of both your lines and devices. As long as they are wearing a mask and or gloves or using hand sanitizer, which you could ask them to do, then you should be fine. The odds of actually coming into contact with someone with Covid is very low as long as all the safety guidelines are being followed.

    • October 5, 2020 at 6:06 am

      All I can say for sure is that I noticed the phone line being dead (i.e. a “Check TEL Line” notice on my desk phone’s display, and no dial tone) moments after I’d unplugged and replugged the modem a few times. I can’t be certain it happened simultaneously.

      And yes, an old modem may be a factor, but that can’t be the entire explanation, since it didn’t start until the first attempted phone repair a week ago.

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