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Suspected Boken Router


Here's an Internet service provider horror story for you. After five years of faithful service, my Internet service provider's modem/router appeared to cut off my Internet service, disconnecting my website from the Internet and disconnecting access from my laptop to the Internet. Even though all the lights on the front were green, indicating that it was working perfectly.

I also have a third-party router that appeared to be working as usual, though I had no functional website or Internet access. My ISP's router is in pass-through mode, and my third-party router does all the actual routing. I had not changed any settings in either router in at least 6 weeks.

I called my ISP and waited a day for a technician to look at their router.

While I waited, I continued trying to fix the problem myself. After repeated router reboots, I managed to get my website back on the Internet, but I still could not access the Internet from my laptop. I had so far not changed any settings on either router. I tried switching DNS servers in the third-party router configuration, but this had no effect, so I switched them back. At this point, the ISP's technician arrived. He decided to replace the ISP's modem/router with a new modem/router. Then he determined that my Internet service was available on my laptop via a direct connection with the ISP's router, and he left.

I didn't think to be in his presence while I forwarded the ports necessary to make my web server visible from the Internet and put the ISP's router in pass-through mode, which I guess is redundant, but it had worked on my original ISP-provided router. Why would I need the technician's help for this now? The new and old ISP-provided routers had exactly the same control panel, so they should work exactly the same. It didn't occur to me that I might have a problem with the new router. Letting the technician leave before everything was working again was a big mistake! My web server was now receiving no traffic, so I went to grc.com/shieldsup to see if the ports were open, and they were not. Then, I went to isitup.com to see if it could see my server, and it could not.

I called my ISP back and told their representative what had happened. She said the forwarded ports had to be "activated". I asked what she meant by that, but she could not give a coherent answer. She said she could "activate" my ports remotely, so I let her do that. That was my second mistake. The router stopped working immediately after a reboot, and a red flashing light on the front indicated that it no longer had a connection to my ISP's server. And the representative and I were disconnected. I tried to call her back, but the ISP's automated answering system three times told me to call back during "normal office hours"! Give me a break! The ISP's representatives are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Why doesn't their automated system know that? I used the router's built-in diagnostic test, which showed that it couldn't authenticate itself to the ISP's network. The ISP's representative had broken my connection to their network.

I was so annoyed by this that I could not sleep more than about two hours that night. So, I called back. This time I told the automated system that I had a question about my modem, rather than that I was having a problem with it, and it let in speak to a human. So, I had manged to win a battle of wits with a machine. I not only called back, I called back four times during the night (11:30 PM, 3:30 AM, 4:30 AM, and 5:30 AM), but no one was able to fix the problem the first representative had caused. They eventually scheduled another technician to take a look at at the router, but he wasn't available for another day, three days after the day the old modem/router had broken.

I must say that every one of my ISP's representatives that I talked to did make every effort to solve my Internet connection problems. They were available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. Every one of the many times I called, they seemed cheerful and eager to help. However, the bottom line seems to be that they either did not understand their equipment well enough, or the problem was not with their router.

This episode reminded me of just how vulnerable we all are to the vagaries of our Internet service providers. Without them and their permission to connect to the Internet, we are locked out. No other organization exists to turn to for help. If my ISP decides one day that it doesn't want me running a website, it can just disconnect my website, and that's that. I can't do a thing about it! Most of us in the United States cannot switch from our current Internet service provider to one that is willing to be more responsive. Most of us only have one, or at most two ISP's from which to choose--thanks to the agreements most of our cities have made with the ISP's to give them virtual monopolies. I find this unacceptable. We need something like a large-scale mesh network that we run ourselves that is not subject to the whims of any group of government bureaucrats. This should be a free-speech issue, because we now speak through the Internet.

To continue on with my story, I happened to have a backup router that was the same model as my ISP's old router. I had been lucky enough to find it at a thrift store months earlier. I put it into the same configuration as my original router, and after several reboots, my website was visible on the Internet again, but I still had no Internet access from my laptop.

Although none of this made any sense, I thought perhaps my third-party router was malfunctioning in some strange way. So, I disconnected every device from it and substituted another router in its place. This arrangement worked exactly the same as the original. So, there appeared to be nothing wrong with my original third-party router.

I reconnected everything together again in its original configuration with the original third-party router. Once again, after a few more reboots, my website was visible on the Internet. Then I plugged my laptop into my third-party router once more and tried to access the Internet. To my shock, I once again had Internet access! I still had not changed any settings on either router. I went to grc.com/shieldsup and found that the ports that I needed to be open were now open!

The only possibilities that make any sense to me at this point are that either my third-party router has an intermittent problem, or that something was wrong upstream with my ISP's server that they had finally managed to fix four days after it malfunctioned. The latter possibility is more likely, since using another router in place of my third-party router had not fixed the problem.

The bottom line is that I wasted four days of my time dealing with this, and I still don't know what caused the problem or if it will happen again. This reminds me of a full-blown anxiety nightmare! It is also an appropriate example of a website administration horror story.

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