What do you do when your Home ISP is down?

I am wondering what some of you guys do when your home ISP is down. At
least those of you that don't give yourself internet.

I myself have a cable provider at home that I use. And I find it quite
frustrating to call and report issues in there network, because the
people in the call center have you do the same things every time and are
not very technical.

Just the other week I could see fairly clearly that I was getting routed
through there network and then started to have issues in a town about 3
hours away. I tried to explain this to the rep but they thought we
needed to reboot my modem. Surprise that didn't work. I mostly called
just to put in a FYI having issues here, please have the smart people
look into it. It is my understanding that they need to get X amount of
calls before things get escalated. Granted I am sure they monitor there
network too. But I called about 10 mins after the routing issues started
to happen and there was no notifications that there was any issues. Even
after being on the phone with them for 20? mins. Still they showed all
is good and that it must just be me.

I know we have a wide range of people here some of which work for my
Home ISP. and would love some feedback.


Mark Keymer


Well, most problems I see are major and not just routing to one other ISP.

My solution? Pull out the smartphone and tether if I really need to get on
the web. Otherwise I sleep it off or do something else. I only call if
it's hours/days in duration, or likely isolated to my property (errors, sync
problems). Someone else with more time than me can sit on the phone with
them to report it.

If it was a small mom/pop ISP with a clue, I'd probably call though.


You think you have it bad? A couple years ago I called my cable
Internet provider when my line broke. I won't name them because they
since changed their system to something more intelligent. Anyway, the
phone tree forced you to go through automated diagnosis before if
would connect you to a live person.

The system was in a funky state where it thought it saw my modem but
didn't. So, for 45 minutes I was stuck in a computer-automated loop of
"Power cycle your modem. Okay I see your modem. Your modem isn't
working. Power cycle your modem."

Bill Herrin

Or connect to the neighbors unprotected wifi... :slight_smile:


It can be frustrating talking to their frontline people, but unless you have contacts there in network engineering, what else are you going to do? Just like I say to customers, if internet connectivity is that important to you, get two. I currently have BHN (cable internet) and Centurylink (DSL along with their PrismTV product) at home. Centurylink has been a disaster. Their DSL service has been about the least reliable internet product I've ever used, which unfortunately makes their PrismTV equally unreliable. The plan had been to transition from BHN to Centurylink, but that seems highly unlikely unless they can figure out how to get my DSL working properly.

When we had a remote office a few blocks away from the data center, there too, we had dual service (BHN cable internet, and at the time it was Embarq for DSL). It's not hard to setup a linux firewall / VPN client to automatically switch the default route when one provider's service quits working.

I call. Frequently I'm the first to call in a problem. Turns out that I
sufficiently impressed one of the helldesk twinkies (not a total bozo; he
ran his own home net of FreeBSD and NetBSD boxes) that he put a note on the
front page of my record saying something like "This guy Knows His Sh*t;
listen to him and believe what he says." This one even knew about flushing
the ARP cache after renumbering.

If you can get past the rote scripting and "we only support Windows", you
may well have a chance.

I'm a cablemodem subscriber to a large ISP/phone/TV provider in .ok.us;
that may nail it down sufficiently for most folks. Their helldesk scores
above average in my book.

If I was busy with something mission-critical for work, the data center is 15
minutes from where I live. If I was busy with something personal-critical,
there's scads of free wireless to be found within 5 minutes travel. If I
wasn't busy with something critical, I have a PS/3 and too many guitars. :wink:

Is it just me that has a hard time reading a paragraph when "there"
and "their" are misused?

Anyway, one time, I had a problem with a DSL line with AT&T, which had
a trouble ticket from a storm taking down the connection and they had
to replace a card somewhere. They said it was fixed but it wasn't
working. After looking at the router, I was pretty sure they messed
up the ATM PVC config on their side. I had to wade through the level
1 support for 45 minutes of reboot this, change this before they sent
me to level 2. I told the level 2 exactly what I thought, and he
said, hold on a sec, and said, yeah, you are right, I just fixed it,
try it now. And it worked. Wish I had a special license to bypass
all level 1 support....

Obligatory xkcd http://xkcd.com/806/

it's just you... most of us can use "contaxt" to know what the person
actually meant :wink:

Damn, that's _fine_!

I've had great luck by working through the system a couple of times until
reaching a level 3 or 4 tech and then working things through. If you work
with them, have them make a note on your account that acknowledges your
technical skills and lets you bypass front line staff. I almost never get
stuck talking to front line staff anymore, and I know my feedback has been
helpful in problem resolution more than a few times :slight_smile:

Get to know the techs, best solution, but it takes perseverance the first
few times.



I find it unfortunate that I've _had_ the opportunity to get to know the
helldesk and local techs. People have a bad habit of taking overheight
trucks down the street just behind my house, pulling the drop down from
one of the two poles that theoretically support it at each end.

I used to use Virgin Media in London for cable services, TV, phone & Internet. TV and phone were fine, never had a problem. Internet was routinely a hassle. About every 3 months we'd have problems during peak hours with the PoP we were connected to or something nearby. Others friends near us but on a different POP were fine, and our 20Mb connection would drop down to 1Mb with soaring latency in the 500ms+ region and ~70% packet loss. Latency was high enough that I switched to using my cell phones GPRS connection for SSH for on-call.

Phoning their tech support was always a hassle. Sitting there through the script, translating stuff from Windows instructions to Linux on the fly (The first time I called I dared to suggest to them I was running Linux and got told they didn't support 'hacker' operating systems, tech support person didn't appreciate it when I told him it was what their servers ran, which I knew from having colleagues who'd worked there). It was the same routine every time, waste 30 minutes speaking to first line support people, bounced from one to another then up to the supervisor, before finally being passed to someone with a technical clue who would spot the problem within about 30 seconds and schedule an engineer to go out and do whatever it is needed done.
If the main phone line hadn't been disconnected long before we moved in there and had such a steep re-connection fee I'd have got DSL as soon as it was clear it was going to be a regular problem :-/


I live in a fairly rural town of about 5000. I have pretty good cable
Internet but I also subscribe to my telco provider's ADSL as a 'backup'
connection if my cable Internet goes down. It's an expensive solution but
unfortunately necessary since I work full time from my home office. I am
also frustrated by the 20 minute telephone call by local ISP support while
they go through their flow chart of possible issues before they can dispatch
someone to fix the problem but I understand the need for diligence before
bothering a higher tier of support or the engineering people.

Now if only I could find a provider who offered some real connectivity in
this area. My local telco wants big bucks for a monitored DSL circuit and
the DSL in this area sucks really bad because I'm pretty far from the C/O;
hence why I use my cable Internet the most and DSL is just a backup. My
cable Internet provider offers no such business services in this area to 'a
residential address'. Pff.

I have a couple of solutions to this problem.

1) I've got a backup Verizon 4G LTE modem giving out wifi. When the DSL goes
down, I have code that will switch the house over to 4G LTE.

2) The DSL circuit is monitored by a set of scripts, and it's modems and
associated switches are tied into an RPC (Remote Power Controller.) If the
circuit fails to pass traffic, my scripts will walk the entire network
(routers, switches, servers) as a admin would trying to find the bad device.
If a device is unresponsive, it reboots it. If the provider's DSLAM dies, my
DSL modem will just sit there and power cycle over and over again until
their DSLAM returns.

If you want it, python code to control a baytech rpc is here:


Ooh, heck. I'm going through this at the moment. I noticed a website that
doesn't load some of the time. After a bit of digging, I discovered that it
doesn't load only when our ISP has given us an address in the 2.97 range,
but fine in other more 'normal' ranges. Bit of digging later seemed to
confirm that a router 12 hops away in Cogent's IP space (38.*) in Boston is
replying with "destination net unreachable", or simply dropping the
connection on the floor. So, looks like that router doesn't like previously
bogonised IP space. Fair enough.

I thought I would actually give this to my ISP to fix, to see what would
happen, and used their online tech support forums to do this . I reported
it last Tuesday, the 9th of August. Acknowledged on the 11th of August,
given an incident number etc. So, this Tuesday they reset the card in the
MSAN at the exchange, cutting all phone and Internet for 20 minutes. After
a bit more of "the issue is still with Networks", as of today, we've got as
far as them asking if I use their DNS servers or someone else's. I've sent
them the output of nslookup from their own, OpenDNS and Google, showing the
same IP response from all three.

We've even had confirmation from another subscriber elsewhere in the country
that the same thing happens.

So, nine days in, we're still waiting for someone within "Networks" to try
and connect to this website themselves from their own IP space; they've
still not decided that this issue isn't occurring from the exchange to our

This ISP has 4.2 million residential subscribers, so is fairly sizable.

I'm going to be interested in how long it takes to get to their routing
guys. It's going to be enlightening to see what happens.


I multi home instead… It works great!


I use a somewhat similar approach… I needed fast, reliable internet access. I have Comcast Cable for fast and Raw Bandwidth DSL for reliable.

The DSL has been rock solid and has only failed once in several years.

Comcast at first (before I switched to business class) had trouble achieving one 9 of availability. I would estimate their current service somewhere between two and three 9s, since I don't count the random renumbering event against them. (If I counted those, it'd be two 9s).


I turn off Halo and go to bed. Holy cow there's a woman there!


"I was a normal American nerd"
-Jack Herer