ISP Tech: "All modems occasionally need to be reset."

  • i got home this evening, and the net was down. i checked the quality graphs, and saw it had been down since noon (about 7 hours). The modem had sync, but i knew it was the modem anyway, i knew it. i did everything possible to fix it, everything except cycle power on the modem. i tried:

    • dis/reconnecting the phone cord into the modem (the modem lost sync and got it back)

    • dis/reconneting the network cable between the router and the modem

    • rebooting the pfSense router

    • connecting my Windows Vista desktop machine directly to the modem

      All the lights on the modem were as they should be, but it just wouldn't work.  i knew that if i cycled the power to the modem it would work again. But i didn't want to just do that, i wanted to have the problem debugged. i wanted to know why it was having a problem. i was hoping they could do some line quality, or probe the modem, or something.

      After explaining the situation to the tech at my ISP, he had me do the usual knuckle-head stuff (What lights are on the modem? Is the modem plugged into your computer? "Oh, you're using a regular cable? No, no no, you need a crossover cable", blah blah blah). Finally he insisted that my ethernet cable was too long, and that my homemade crossover cable was probably faulty, and that i should use the cable that came with the modem, and have it closer to my computer. i explained to him that i didn't want to do that because that would require removing power to the modem, and that i knew that would fix the problem. i said i wanted to take this opportunity to diagnose the problem not just fix the symptoms.

      To paraphrase the conversation that then took place:

      mnsi: All modems occasionally need to be reset, sir. i've been here seven years, and i've never seen a modem that doesn't need to be occasionally reset.
      Me: Can i get another modem? A better modem? One that doesn't need to be reset?
      mnsi: You can, but it's not going to make any difference. All modems occasionally need to be reset.
      Me: That's pretty bad isn't it? Hardware that locks up? i mean if my Windows machine blue screened, it would be something very bad - not something to be expected.
      mnsi: There's a difference between a Windows machine and a modem, sir.
      Me: Yes, but shouldn't they strive for quality hardware that doesn't have these problems?
      mnsi: All modems occasionally lock up sir. It's just the way it is.
      Me: Yes, but why? What's the problem inside the modem that's ca…
      mnsi: I don't have any answers for you sir. i'm here to troubleshoot, and i'm telling you that as part of that troubleshooting you need to reset your modem. You're telling me you don't want to reset the modem. All modems occasionally need to be reset, and you need to reset yours if you want it to work again.

      MNSi in Windsor, Ontario everybody.

      And occasionally all televisions, DVD players, microwaves, ovens and wrist watches need to be reset. It's just the way it is.

      Anyone disagree?

  • It's a quality thing - cheap (ie domestic market) devices tend to be less robust than more expensive (ie commercial market) devices.  I've certainly seen enough ADSL and cable modems that need power cycling from time to time, I've even had a domestic firewall that needed the occasional reset to keep it happy.

    The simple solution is, spend more money and buy better hardware ;)

  • How true this is depends on the definition of "occasionally". If it happens once a year, I wouldn't have a problem with it. Sure it's a pain, but not a huge deal. It's acceptable that electronic devices will need to be power cycled occasionally, at least the consumer-grade stuff. If Cisco told me my routers needed to be power cycled occasionally, no matter what the definition of occasionally was, that would be completely unacceptable. Ditto for server hardware. But we're talking about enterprise grade equipment that costs thousands of dollars, not a $50 consumer DSL modem.

    If it happens once every couple months or more frequently, I would get a replacement modem, or check for a firmware upgrade for the modem. I manage about 50 firewalls connected to a variety of cable and DSL modems, T1 routers, and other various equipment, and only see about once a year at all those sites combined where power cycling the modem (or other CPE) fixes a problem.

  • Btw, you should check if this might be a heatissue. I have seen people installing their modem somewhere next to a centralheating or right behind a pc that is blowing the heat directly at the device.

  • How true this is depends on the definition of "occasionally".

    If it happens once every couple months or more frequently, I would get a replacement modem, or check for a firmware upgrade for the modem.

    Now that i'm using a pfSense based router, i realize that all the problems i've had for years were more likely the modem.

    i mysteriously lose and regain connection few times a day, while longer outages (minutes) happen once or twice a week. Every few weeks i have to cycle the modem.

    The modem is sitting on a 2x4, with nothing but cool basement air around all around it. If it's a heat issue: it's very touchy about it. Although, it is failing a lot more recently - with the higher traffic that i'm confident my new pfSense router can support.

  • @hoba:

    and if nothing helps…  ;D

    Is that a power-outlet on a timer???

  • correct. it will turn on/off the device at programmed intervalls. You could also use it to reboot the modem on given times. those cost only a few bucks usually. however a modem that doesn't have this issue would of course be the nicer solution.

  • I know how you feel about this issue and trying to actually get a tech to figure out the true issue with the modem.  Where I work we have two business grade Charter Cable High Speed Internet lines, each with their very own modem.  Only one of the two have the issue you describe.  They sit right next to each other and experience the exact same environment.  Until I get notice that it is locked up and come in to reset the power to it no internet traffic gets passed through it.  The whole time though all the appropriate lights on the modem remain on.  Whatever it is, the Techs see that the modem is still synced up and tell me it has been down no more than about 4 minutes total over the past couple months.  This is despite the fact that their modem has not been passing any internet traffic at all for as many hours it may be for me to be notified and go reset the thing.  They refuse to replace the modem unless we pay for the service call out at $99.00 and if we go with a third party modem they won't provide support…  I hate to give in but we may actually end up paying them to get a new one.  Working on talking to some local Charter reps before giving in though...

  • you can get 99.9% uptime w/ a service guarantee if you are willing to pay as much as your rent/mortgage (more or less depending on how much squalor …or NOT  :) you live in)

    sometimes IT ISN'T the CABLE MODEM

    for about 2mos my cable modem locked up almost every day... I was getting VERY ANGRY... I called the cable company they sent people out 3 times

    (each tech more or less blamed the last tech...or ME which kinda pissed me off.  they swapped cables (redid connectors out side/inside the house)  they even switched modems

    none the less the cable modem locked up every day

    finally  i called again... and someone there at the cable company FINALLY (apparently cause they said there was an error in the provisioning... and when they fixed the provisioning the problem went away.) double checked all settings on their end.

    it was ticking me off ...been pretty good since... not stellar but for residential service certainly passable.

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