Sunday, June 15, 2008

Throttled no more - and never was!

I owe Verizon FiOS an apology.

In my last post, I suggested Verizon had throttled my connection in an insidious manner by remotely restricting the speed of my internal network to 10 Mbps. I now learn I was wrong. Still, I'm pleased to learn a new set of symptoms to watch for when a router is failing.

Many months ago, I discovered, but did not report, my Verizon-supplied Actiontec MI424WR router had mysteriously failed to recognize the encrypted wireless connection from one of my PCs. It had worked faithfully for some time, then suddenly refused to recognize the PC-provided key. I worked on the connection at some length, and finding it would accept something somewhat less secure, but still moderately safe, I settled for that lesser connection. I now believe that was the first symptom of impending failure.

The episode I reported in my last blog was but another symptom. It really made no sense to me that all 100 Mbps wired connections would work one day, and fail the next, yet the 10 Mbps would work without fault. I felt something was amiss, but Bocona's tendency toward believing conspiracy theories left me weak in that regard, and so I blamed Verizon... even though I had not spoken with them on the issue.

But when the router suddenly seized up and dropped all connections, I was left with no choice but to call Verizon. Power cycling did nothing for me locally, and while Verizon reported they could connect to and speak with the router from their end, their efforts to restart the router on their end produced nothing. They quickly gave up trying and overnighted a new router.

The new router (same model) works flawlessly. I'm again secured and back up to speed.

The moral of this story, all political motives aside, is when the Verizon-supplied equipment stops doing what it is supposed to do, I can troubleshoot to my heart's content, but should still contact Verizon support. It may well be that I'm experiencing symptoms of a bigger problem that only Verizon is aware of, and failing to report it only delays an inevitable heartache.

And while I'm at it, I should work harder to be more immune to Bocona's wild ideas!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Fastest Internet Connection - Throttled!

There's been a lot of talk lately about ISPs throttling your bandwidth to save a little money. Of course, you don't expect an ISP to throttle your bandwidth if you're paying for that bandwidth... and if they failed to provide the contracted bandwidth, there might be legal hassles.

So how does an ISP throttle your bandwidth while at the same time provide the bandwidth they're contractually liable for?

Well, I can't speak for the legal side of the issue, not being an attorney, but from the technical side of things, throttling the NIC seems to work pretty well for Verizon FiOS.

I have a server, two PCs, and a printer on a wired network, and a separate PC on a wireless connection (fortunately, as we will see). The wired network featured a Linksys 10/100 switching router, and an older Linksys workgroup hub daisy-chained to the router. The server and the printer were attached to the workgroup hub; the PCs shared the faster 10/100 switching router, which was at one time connected to a DSL line, but has lately served only as a switch, subservient to the Verizon-provided Actiontec MI424WR router. The Actiontec offers wireless b/g connectivity, which is how the 3rd PC joins the network.

Yesterday morning, the wired network went down. Old-fashioned swap-and-test troubleshooting isolated the problem (at first) to the 10/100 switching router, so I plugged the workgroup hub into one of the Actiontec's four ports and pulled the PCs from the router, moving them to two of the Actiontec ports. Lo and behold, the standalone PCs failed to join the network, behaving similarly to the now-discarded router. A ping test showed only about half the packets were getting through.

It then occurred to me that the one common factor between the failed devices that was NOT common to the working one was that the failed devices were presenting auto-sensing 10/100 NICs to the Actiontec ports. The older workgroup hub was 10 mbps only, not a problem for the low-demand server and printer. I tested the theory by using the wirelessly-connected PC to log into the Actiontec's control panel (where I found something disturbing) and reconfigured the affected ports to 10 mbps/full-duplex. I left the PCs' own NICs at auto-sensing.

The connection miraculously cleared; my network was effectively throttled down to 10 mbps.

And that something disturbing? Someone had remotely logged into the router's console about an hour before I work that morning. No direct evidence I could find to show what was changed; the security log simply recorded the person leaving. The source address was I'm presently inclined to think someone at Verizon had introduced a firmware upgrade that effectively killed 100 mbps connections. I don't have a better explanation.

If I get a full day free, I'll call Verizon tech support and work through the tiers until I find someone who can give me a better explanation than Verizon wanting to throttle my bandwidth without violating my service agreement. Unfortunately, with work on Goodwill Too! progressing nicely, I don't see that call coming any time soon.