Adventures With Ishy: Tech Support Edition

My mother’s wireless router suddenly stopped working after four years. To get internet at all, she has to plug the main PC directly into the modem. This means she can’t use the shiny laptop I bought her for Christmas, and I’m stuck on this ancient PC when I come to visit.

Since I’m here for the night, I figured I would try to get her router working again. I didn’t expect to fix it — I don’t know much about routers — but I had to try. It’s already broken, what’s the worst I could do? Break it more?

Aside: I know most of my readers aren’t technicians, so I’m going to be vague on the tech-related details. If you are a computer nerd like me, don’t shoot me for the inconsistencies.

I know the Comcast modem works perfectly fine, as the PC is connected directly to it and has no problems with being online. The Linksys router, however, didn’t seem to be working. (modem = wired internet, router = wireless internet). Basically, the computer would claim to have connected to wireless internet, but couldn’t actually load any webpages (or get a ping).

Let the troubleshooting begin!

Step 1: Power cycle. Turn everything off, unplug it all, wait for a bit, then slowly plug it all back in. Didn’t work.

Step 2: Factory reset. Press and hold the reset button on the back of the router to reset it to factory settings. Didn’t work.

Step 3: Hack into router. The router has an IP address you can type into a web browser to access the settings for the router.  This is where I learned the router could not get a static DNS IP. Basically, the router and modem couldn’t communicate so the router couldn’t get an address.

Step 4: Google! Everything I found there told me to input the IP from my ISP, the people I pay to have Internet.

Step 5: Call Comcast.

Another aside: The first time I contacted Comcast tech support was five years ago. We had two PCs, one modem, no router, so one PC was perpetually connected to the modem and the other, mine, was never online. The internet computer went out of commission for a bit, so we tried to connect my PC to the the modem. My PC wasn’t having it. The tech support insisted I had a virus. …yeah, virus on a computer that has never been online before. Got it.

I didn’t feel like calling someone whose accent would be indecipherable, so I did an online chat instead. On my phone. It kind of worked.

Tech support agents usually have a script they have to work through, but I tried to skip all that by being straightforward in my first message to him: My wireless router is not getting a static DNS IP from the modem. Can you tell me what static IP I should manually input to get it to work again?

After some back and forth about what kind of router I have, what the account number is, what my relationship is with the account holder, etc., he walked me through the steps to connect to the router. Y’know, that whole input-IP-into-browser thing I already did? Then he did the hand-waving part: type in the static IP provided by your ISP and hit save.

Whoa now guy, let’s take a step back here. Did I not already say I tried this? Did I not already ask if you could let me know what the static IP was so I could do this myself? Apparently, he didn’t hear me the first time. I asked a second time.

He responded: “Great question! Let me see what your account says.”

/facepalm

After several minutes of waiting, the guy comes back and doesn’t actually have an answer for me. I believe it was about then when he asked me if I had a modem. We had been talking for about an hour at this point.

Next, he walked me through the physical setup of the router: plugged into an outlet, into the modem, and into the PC. Wow, gee… Plugging the router in… Wish I had thought of that!

Oh wait, I did? Huh… Must be my precognitive abilities at work!

I asked him what the next step was, hoping he had something useful to add. He told me the computer would automatically set up the router. Seriously, guy? Do you not know how to read? I humored him and opened a webpage. Predictably, it wouldn’t load. I ran an ipconfig /release and /renew, even tried to ping google.com. Nada. Logged into router again and, oh what a surprise! No IP.

I told him this. He suggested a power cycle. I told him no, and preempted his inevitable factory reset suggestion. The next question he asked baffled me for a full two minutes. Something about contacting the IP address manufacturer? Turns out, he meant the manufacturer of the router: Linksys.

Right, because when the ISP doesn’t assign a DNS IP to the router, it’s the router’s fault.

Anyways, I told him I hadn’t contacted Linksys yet because usually, IP issues have to do with the ISP, and we had already confirmed both the modem and router were working fine as far as hardware is concerned. He agreed.

Let me paraphrase that: He told me to contact the manufacturer of my router, then agreed that it wouldn’t make any sense to do so.

Wait, what?

According to him, the router wasn’t “provisioned” correctly. Think of it like trying to move into a house that doesn’t have an address. You can’t do it. You don’t move in then find out four years later you haven’t had an address. Were the router incorrectly provisioned, it never would have had an IP to start with. It would not have worked fine for four years, then suddenly stopped.

As Branli said to me on Twitter, :: head-desk + sharp object + pigeon ::

At the end of the two-hour conversation, all I have is an 800 number with which to call Linksys who will no doubt tell me to contact my ISP. But it is now past midnight and I have to be up wondrously early to get my mouth poked at. My poor mum will have to be without internet until next I visit.

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About Squishy

Writer, dancer, gamer, and admirer of all that is beautiful.

Posted on April 12, 2011, in Technology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I think this is the worst customer service saga I’ve heard of yet. Alas that they don’t understand that if a customer gives them specific information, it probably means they already have half a clue what is going on… Hope everything goes better during your next visit!

    • Oh I had some fantastic stories from my last job.

      Customer service agents usually have a script they have to follow, which is why they ask the repetitive questions at the beginning (“Have you tried restarting?”). They can’t move on to the helpful stuff until they’ve gone through that. But they lose all respect points for giving wrong/bad advice. Shame my phone wouldn’t let me take the survey afterward…

  2. “Think of it like trying to move into a house that doesn’t have an address. You can’t do it. You don’t move in then find out four years later you haven’t had an address.”

    That. That right there. That was a fantastic reaction to all the nonsense you dealt with. I actually laughed out lout at that.

    Uh…have things improved?

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