An Internet Crisis

Dateline: 23 August 2014

My mail-order home business, Planet Whizbang, is 100% internet dependent. All the information about my products is on the internet, almost all product orders come through the internet, almost all payments are made through the internet, all customer correspondence is through the internet, and all shipping labels are bought & printed via the internet. If the internet stops working, my business is akin to Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff.

That said, it was a crisis here last Wednesday morning when, first thing, I sat in front of my computer screen and discovered that my internet was no longer working. At first, I wasn't concerned because it has a tendency to go off for short periods of time. But it was off like never before.

I did nothing for the first day of outage, except check every few minutes to see if the internet was finally working. I assumed Verizon was having some kind of widespread internet issue and they were fixing it.

The next morning, still without an internet connection, Marlene went to a friend's house to use their internet. She was there for several hours getting orders and printing postage. I put in a call to Verizon.

After communicating with a robot and answering a series of questions, I got through to a real person. He spoke English well enough for me to understand (barely) and was very polite. The man spent a long time with me asking about how my router/modem was hooked up and he had me do a variety of things, unhooking and re-hooking cords, while he ran some tests from his end. It was all to no avail and he said they would have to send a technician out to fix the problem. That was good news. The problem was going to get fixed!

Then he informed me that the earliest time a technician could get to my house would be in eight days. That was not good news. Not at all. 

I explained to the Verizon man that my business is 100% dependent on the internet and the prospect of waiting eight days to get it fixed was a nightmare. I told him that it was critically important that someone got here much faster. I was emphatic about this (without being an angry customer). 

The man sympathized with me and said he would do what he could to get a technician here sooner. He said he would call me back when he had arranged the appointment.

Fifteen minutes later, the guy called back with good news. He had done everything he could to get a technician here sooner, and the absolute earliest appointment he could get was in six days. I thanked him for his help and hung up the phone, wondering what I could possibly do to work around this problem. Our friends were being very gracious with their internet, but using someone else's internet, computer, and printer for several hours a day to run our business was not something we felt right about.

Then someone told me that for around $80 I could buy a device at WalMart that would give me a temporary internet connection, using cell tower connections, and no contract was required. I could buy the thing and have internet until Verizon got here to fix my connection. Perfect solution, I decided that I would go to WalMart the next morning. 

Then my oldest son stopped by. He started fiddling with the wires and the modem. A few minutes later, the internet was working. Problem totally solved.

It turns out that when he was in the Army, stationed in Korea for a year, he had gathered quite a bit of internet connection experience. When I asked what he did to fix my internet, he said he pushed the reset button on the router. I told him I did that twice. He informed me that the reset button needs to be pushed in for 30 seconds. That's what did it.

Next time the internet goes out, I won't call Verizon. I'll call my son. 

My internet now works better than it has in years. The problem I had with the internet connection shutting off every time the phone rings is now fixed.

As I've noted here in the past, vulnerability comes with complexity. We live in a technologically complex, interconnected world. I fully expect the electrical grid to go down for an extended period of time someday and, of course, the internet with it. When that happens, I will mourn briefly and turn my attention to the post-grid realities of life, which I am mentally and physically (to a great degree) prepared to deal with.

But when I lose my electricity (with internet) and the rest of the world is still chugging along like normal, that's a real bummer.


Sunnybrook Farm said...

We have a little different set up than verizon but still use a router. Our tech support is just over the mountain and they have me disconnect the power cord for a minute to reset the router. It is a sure simple way to reset, unplug everything.
A plan B might be to put the Linux system on an old laptop, they have some with encryption on all the files so it is real secure if you are on some other connection. You don't want to have any sensitive data visible or leave a trail.

Mike R. said...

I may be an avid gardener and currently a nurse, but I started in school as a computer science major. The reason your router had a problem was it lost the "map". Basically, all routers keep a map of where things need to go. In some cases, an electrical storm or other minor electrical surge like a brown out(quick millisecond power outage, like when your lights flicker) will cause the map to become fractured or corrupted. Then the router has no idea where things need to be sent. Unplugging the router and waiting 30 seconds(usually 10 seconds is enough) discharges the capacitors inside the device and the router builds a new map that tells it where to send the information. It's a very simple concept but an annoying one that I have run into time and time again. I hope that gives a better idea of what happened to your machine. To address Sunnybrook above, unless you want to get really technical or have a background in Linux or Unix based systems I suggest you stick with a Windows or Mac based system. I have a good Linux knowledge base but even I use Windows out of sheer laziness.

Take care,

Graham Donahue said...

That sounds like our story! I think Verizon has us on the black list because we call them about the lack of internet connection so often! It has been working pretty good recently though. Glad it is working for you again!

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

That's funny because I call my son my Tech Support. While he has a degree in Computer Science, most of what he knows about the Internet and such comes from years of playing on the computer when we homeschooled.

Which is also how he ended up becoming a Software Engineer.

He was at our house yesterday and complained that he thought something was wrong with our service, it was so slow. He was able to go into our Internet service and see our "download" and "upload" power (I had no idea...).

Turns out we are getting exactly what we pay for in the country. His service is just much faster in the city.

Isn't everything?

Oh, he also taught me to hold the button thingy in for awhile. If that does not work, try shutting the modem off for about five minutes. If that does not work... you are out of luck.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Mike, that is a great explanation and insight to the problem.