Category Archives: Internet

Cheap Comcast for the Poor and Veterans

Comcast has cheap internet for people who get government housing or food assistance, and now also offers this for Veterans. For $10/month you get 15Mbps/sec download and 2Mbps/sec upload. This is 10x faster than the old DSL speeds and more than fast enough for streaming HD video. There are no charges for setup or equipment (modem/wifi router). If you qualify, it’s a great deal.

Go to:
https://internetessentials.com

Or call 855-846-8376

To qualify, you can’t have had Internet through Comcast in the last 3 months and you can’t have another Internet service.

I only wish this was promoted more, as there are lots of qualified people who have big $100/month bundle deals because they don’t know other options exist.

Through the Internet Essentials website from Comcast, customers can also order $150 computers. These are slower desktops and laptops (currently with Core 2 Duos and i3 CPUs) but they come with Windows 10, Office, and Norton Antivirus preinstalled. This is also a great deal if you qualify. Each household has up to 2 years to purchase the computers and can purchase up to 3 computers. CDI is the partner that runs the computer sales and they can be reached at 888-234-4272.

How to test Ethernet cables and WiFi speeds

I recently had to diagnose poor ethernet speeds in a home in Arlington, VA. A person was getting 60 Mbps/sec, certainly not bad, but far less than the paid for 100 Mbps/sec. The problem was first diagnosed by going to speed test websites:

http://www.speedtest.net

https://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/

This computer had FIOS, so I plugged a testing computer I had directly into the ONT (optical network terminal, where the fiber enters the house). From there I did get 100 Mbps/sec, so I knew the culprit was within the home network. I next tested the speeds from the home router. Those speeds, over both wifi and ethernet showed the slow speeds. So the main culprit appeared to be the cable connecting the ONT to the router.

To test the cable, I used iPerf, one of my favorite speed test tools. To buy a dedicated device that tests speeds can cost in the thousands of dollars from a company like Fluke. This is because you’re essentially buying a computer to do the tests. iPerf is a free tool that just uses your computers for the testing. You need to install iPerf on two computers and run one in client and one in server mode.

I used iPerf to test that suspect cable and got the following results:

iPerf output showing 100 Mbits/sec speed capability of cableA good cable should get 10x this speed. So I re-terminated one of the cable ends to see if that would fix the cable. I couldn’t easily replace the cable since it took a difficult path through a wall. Happily fixing one end of the cable gave me the following iPerf results:

iPerf results showing gigabit speeds

This is what an operational cable’s results look like, showing gigabit speeds.

I next tested other ethernet jacks and the WiFi using iPerf and everything else checked out.

Unfortunately, this kind of testing isn’t widely performed. Most people don’t noticed degraded speeds in the first place. And if they do notice, they don’t know where to start to figure out the problem. Comcast and Verizon don’t normally perform this level of testing in my experience. Once the internet providers see good speeds getting to the house, they let the users deal with local network issues.

Ordering Internet Feels Like Buying A Car

Fargo's William H Macy
Fargo’s William H Macy

Have you ever haggled to get a lower price for a car? It’s a known practice. But most people don’t realize that it’s the same when ordering or renewing your internet service.

I had been paying for relatively slow but fast enough for me 15/15 Mbps Verizon FIOS service for $40/month. This was a two year deal which recently shot up to $75/month. So I called and asked what they could do. I even said that I wanted to cancel my service. Sometimes this gets you transferred to retention people who can offer you more. In this case, the representative said that he had to go off and talk to folks about what they could offer. Remember in Fargo when William H. Macey was selling a car to people and pretended to go talk to his boss? That’s what this felt like.

When the Verizon representative came back, he said that the best he could do was $50/month for 50/50 Mbps service. I said that I didn’t need that speed, but he said that it was the lowest speed currently offered by Verizon. I said that wasn’t good enough so he went to go to talk to people again. This time he came back and said that he could do it for $45/month.

Meanwhile, I was discussing the same topic with a Verizon online web chat person. This person said the best they could do was $40/month for 25/25 Mbps speed. So I hung up the phone and ordered through the web.

I don’t know if I got the best deal possible. I know someone who was recently given 30/30 Mbps for $45/month so it seems a little random. Both the phone and web person said that 30/30 wasn’t a current speed option. My guess is that the offers depend a little on who you happen to reach and what deals the sales people are told they can offer at the time.

Sadly, just like with buying a car, it’s the uninformed folks who can’t figure out the system and have to pay too much. These are often older folks who get tricked into buying an “internet security package” or are told that they need 50/50 Mbps speeds to watch Netflix. It’s no better than selling someone a pretend car undercoating.

Beeping FIOS battery

Has your FIOS or other internet box started beeping? The internet box that is usually just inside the house is called an Optical Network Terminal (ONT). (Note that the ONT plugs into another box with an antenna. This is the router.) The ONT has a Battery Backup Unit (BBU) since you need to have the ability to make 911 phone calls in the event of a power outage. But the rechargeable batteries usually just last 2-3 years.

Instead of having Verizon or your internet provider replace the battery, you can usually do so yourself if you’re comfortable opening the ONT and unplugging the battery. Replacement batteries are available at places like Amazon, BatteryMart, and Mighty Max Battery. They typically cost $30-50.

For my Verizon FIOS ONT, I had to purchase a battery that was comparable with the Goldtop HG GT12080-HG. The key things to look at are the terminal connection type, volts, and amps. My model has F2 terminals, 12 volts, and 8Ah.  You also want to make sure the dimensions fit or that the battery claims to be a direct replacement for your model.

Goldtop HG GT12080-HG Battery