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Inadequate Coverage in Shenandoah Valley (nearly continuous TCP timeouts)


Inadequate Coverage in Shenandoah Valley (nearly continuous TCP timeouts)

I use mifi (pronounced miffy) and for those who are unfamiliar, it is a box the size of a small cell phone.  In fact it is a cell phone minus the keypad and display.  It provides a wifi signal to your vicinity (e.g. your house) and connects through the AT&T cell network to provide internet to up to 5 computers.  It worked pretty well, although imperfectly, until two weeks ago.  Then it went out Sunday morning at about 10 AM.  It stayed out untill at least 4 AM Monday morning when I left for work.  It was working again when I got home Monday evening.


I called it in from work on Monday and was supposed to get a call back in the evening in the next few days so they could troubleshoot when I was home.  That call never happened but about a week later I got a followup voicemail and since it was working again I didn't call back.


Today it went out again around noon.  I called it in since I was home and they could troubleshoot with me being there.  I passed the first customer service person and was on the second when I was asked to do a number of things to verify that my PC was working.  My PC was working (it's a Mac which they had never heard of) and I passed those tests.  I understand the need to rule out PC connectivity to Mifi first.


Then I was asked to reset the Mifi by pressing a paperclip into a little hole in the back.  I did, wiping out my settings, but that's fine since that did not take long to set up again.  The customer service rep verified that my Mifi was indeed reset becaue it reverts to the factory SID and factory wifi password.  I connected again.  The rep asked to try the internet with firefox (didn't trust Safari which I can understand).  FIrefox gave two errors, mostly the error that it can't connect to the server (e.g. and sometimes the network connecton timeout error.


The simple fact is that TCP connections through the mifi were timing out.  It would be good if customer service knew that this is often the case and test for it rather than waste lots of everybody's time.  I don't mind answering questions about my antivirus (none to lots depending on the VM I use) but they are not in any way relevant.


If I can show them that I can connect to the mifi device with my computer and that I can bring up their web based admin tool, and I can go to "internet status" and I can tell them my assigned IP address in their network, then they should allow me to skip the "reboot your PC tests".  Those do not make sense in that scenario.


The next step of course is to connect to somewhere in the internet besides the Mifi because as interesting as that admin web server is, it isn't everything I signed up for.  So I try pinging my assigned DNS server and get no response.  I traceroute to it and don't get past the mifi or if I do, I only get one or two hops into their network at most and often just zero hops past the mifi.


If their network only goes one or two hops, then there is something wrong their network.  After my 1.5 hours of rebooting and resetting my rep finally admitted there is something wrong with their network and they would check on it in the next 4 days.


Their network is working fine now which is why I am able to write this message.  When they check it, I imagine they will find that it is fine.  Perhaps they fixed it remotely based on my trouble ticket: [edited for privacy]


I don't know how their network works but my guess is that it is overloaded and that my TCP connections are all blocked or 99.9% blocked during these periods since I very ocassionally get part of a webpage before it goes completely dead again.  Whatever the problem is, it would be nice if they fixed it.


It would be especially nice if when I called about it, I would not be forced to reboot my PC for an hour.  It would also be nice to not have to reset my Mifi, but I don't mind doing that every now and then especially if it can shorten my 1.5 hour call to 0.5 hours.


If anyone from AT&T customer support reads these forums, please pass on this suggestion: don't always assume that the customer's PC is having problems.  Also, please give all customer service reps a quick course in WLAN connectivity.  Please explain to them that bringing up the Mifi admin interface on a PC is solid evidence that there is WLAN connectivity from the PC to the Mifi, no need to waste an hour on that.  Then have them ask for DNS lookups, traceroutes, etc.  Those are not too difficult to do.


Also it would nice if customer support could traceroute from their end or do something from their end.  It appears that they have no useful information on their end.


(edit: changed WAN to WLAN)

Message 1 of 6

Re: Inadequate Coverage in Shenandoah Valley (nearly continuous TCP timeouts)

I left off a very important detail.  When the network stopped working I drove to a neighboring town with my PC and my Mifi.  I turned it on and it connected and worked fine.  I tried it in a second nearby town on Monday morning when still wasn't working at my house.  It worked there too.


The network connectivity problem is only at my location, not other nearby locations.

Message 2 of 6

Re: Inadequate Coverage in Shenandoah Valley (nearly continuous TCP timeouts)

Sorry this is happening to you, im sure its very frustrating. Do you know if there are any other people that live close to you that are experiencing this? If so its just a low coverage area and being inside just makes it worse. If you are the only person experiencing this, call AT&T and get them to troubleshoot your service. Make sure you are near your house and have a landline or another working line at the time, they will ask you to powercycle atleast once during troubleshooting. If they finish troubleshooting and your issue is still not fixed they most likely just need a microcell. If they don't allow data only devices to connect to microcell ask them what other options you have.

Message 3 of 6

Re: Inadequate Coverage in Shenandoah Valley (nearly continuous TCP timeouts)

Thanks for your advice.  I don't know of any neighbors on the same AT&T service.  There was at least one neighbor who had it before I did, but I think he switched out of frustration over a year ago.  In his case he said it was too slow in the evening.  That may be true in my case too, but at least it works.  I'll have to ask around.


The microcell is an interesting idea.  I have medium signal strength in one corner of the house so I put the Mifi there.  The rest of the house has one bar coverage.  I figured the Mifi to tower connection was ok, but I could be wrong.

Message 4 of 6

Re: Inadequate Coverage in Shenandoah Valley (nearly continuous TCP timeouts)

I'm assuming that you're using the MiFi because you have no other internet connection.  If that is the case, a Micro Cell will not help.  It needs to be connected to a broadband service such as Comcast.  It is for areas with poor voice coverage.

Message 5 of 6

Re: Inadequate Coverage in Shenandoah Valley (nearly continuous TCP timeouts)

That is correct, no other coverage at my house.  However there is good coverage not far away.  The cable company came down the street to about 1/2 mile away and stopped.  So if a microcell can go that far, it might help.

Message 6 of 6
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