Is this my DSL provider's fault, or is it my computer?

Yesterday around 8 PM our DSL connection suddenly went kerflooey. We were still able to load pages, but VERY VERY slowly. I was getting transfer rates around 1KB/sec. It was worse than dial-up, and most pages would load a quarter of the way (or less) and then just hang. I thought maybe it was a problem with the line due to a recent thunderstorm, so I gave it a couple of hours and then called tech support. They walked me through some stuff, did a test of the line, and said that from their end everything looked fine, so there was nothing they could do. They said call back in a day if it wasn’t better.

This morning the same problem is still occurring. Here are the troubleshooting steps we’ve taken so far:

  1. Powered down the modem and computer, waited 30 seconds, then restarted.

  2. Cleared all cookies and temporary Internet files from the machine.

  3. Ran a virus scan and a spyware scan. (Both negative.)

Does anyone have theories as to what could be causing this? I’m at the library right now. I’m going to call AT&T again when I get home and tell them the problem still isn’t fixed (assuming it still isn’t) but if there’s anything else I could do personally to try to fix the problem, I’d like to hear it. Thanks (and replies that come in within the next 45 minutes would be extra-helpful since that’s when I have to leave the library.)

Is there anything else plugged into the telephone line at your house?

Perhaps as a test unplug all devices except your DSL modem from the phone jacks then give it a shot. It is possible something is wrong with one of your line filters.


  1. unplug all phone devices
  2. turn off DSL modem
  3. turn off computer
  4. power up modem
  5. power up computer
  6. test connection
  7. ?
  8. profit!

Excellent suggestion, Seven; will try it when I get home.

I had something similar happen to a friend of mine. He was on road runner which is cable rather than DSL.

His internet connection stopped working completely. He called tech support and they told him everything looks good from our end the problem is with your ethernet card.

My friend called me and asked me if I could install a new ethernet card for him. I agreed but wanted to take the computer to work with me where I have tools and other computer fixing stuff at my fingertips.

I picked up his PC, brought it to my place and just for the heck of it plugged it into my cable modem (I’m on road runner too). Lo and behold, his computer worked fine from my place.

He called tech support back and they replaced his cable modem. He had to be quite firm with them when requesting the replacement.

The moral of this story is that even when they say it’s nothing on their end it might still be something on their end. YMMV.

I swear that they are trained to say everything is okay on their end the first time you call. I second velvetjones method. In geek speak, it’s using a ‘known good’ cable/DSL modem. If it works somewhere else, you can rule out your OS or your own hardware. If the problem continues somewhere else, you know it’s not your modem or network.

I did have one of the line filters on my dsl go bad. When it happened I had problems that sound similar to Mswhatsit’s problems, slow loading, etc. I switched it out with a filter from another phone in the house and my problem was solved. Could be, maybe?

Problem still not fixed; further troubleshooting that has occurred, some of which I did myself and some of which was suggested by the guy at the help desk, who I talked to for over 2 hours (ugh):

  • Swapped out phone cords with the one from the phone downstairs
  • Swapped out DSL filters with the phone downstairs
  • Unplugged downstairs phone
  • Power cycled modem and computer MANY times.
  • pinged other sites; pretty consistenly came back okay but almost everything else timed out (,, etc.)
  • reset modem settings

The tech support guy says that he thinks it’s a winsock problem and that somehow my winsock has become corrupted. He furthermore says that this could affect both computers on my home network (both machines are having the same problem). He says it is highly highly doubtful that the problem is with the phone lines or anything like that, but he is putting in a trouble ticket for us so they will “rebuild the circuits” anyway to see if that helps.

Does this sound reasonable to anyone? I don’t even really know what “winsock” is. I don’t get why some pages (like the Dope, thank god) are loading reasonably okay, although somewhat slower than usual, while some pages are hanging or refusing to load at all. (Actually, the pages that will load are in the vast minority; I’m having trouble getting anywhere on the internet right now.)

GOD THIS SUCKS. I just want my internet back. Here’s crossing my fingers and hoping this post actually goes through.

Borrow a computer and check the connection then it isn’t your winsock. Winsock is a program used to interface with the internet. I would bet that there’s a physical problem with equipment owned by the provider or his subcontractors. Give the borrowed computer a try.

I second what Harmonious D said. Do you have a friend with a laptop who could come over and check it out?

Or a second and somewhat more difficult option: do you know someone else with DSL who you could visit with your computer? (yes, I realize that would be kind of a PITA but you’d only have to bring the PC, not the monitor and most likely not the keyboard, mouse or cables as those things are fairly universal) Hook your box into their equipment and see how it works.

If yours works fine elsewhere or if a known good computer doesn’t work at your place it is the DSL’s problem and not a problem with your hardware or software.

Tech support can be difficult. They have to follow a script and they’re trained to do absolutely everything they can over the phone before sending a tech. Sending a technician is expensive and they want to avoid that.

I’d agree with both Harmonious Discord and velvetjones: Either try a known-good computer with your DSL line or try your computer with a known-good DSL line.

I hate to say this, but do not trust the technicians until/unless they actually fix your problem, especially if they say “everything looks fine on their end” and stops helping you. That should indicate to you that the guy you’re speaking with believes that his job is not to help you but to keep you just satisfied enough that you’ll remain a subscriber. They’ll go through a list of things they can blame the problem on until every other possibility has been exhausted and they’re left with no more excuses. The sneaky part is that everything they tell you is a possibility, so they’re not exactly lying to you, but many of these problems are exceedingly improbable.

Winsock problems? Pfft. Might be a legitimate concern if you were using Windows 3.1, but otherwise it’s probably bullshit. Help desk employees are paid to basically act like automated chat programs with a somewhat better ability to understand English. They use similar scripts and provide similarly useless answers.

I used to be an AT&T Cable customer, back before they became Comcast. I’m not sure if they’re the same company as the new AT&T DSL, but back then, I was told on several different occasions that everything looked fine on their end. Every time I called them, I’d explain to them that my connection was working 5 minutes ago and that I didn’t change anything, but they’d still blame it on my computer. And, in every single incident, all I had to do was wait a few hours or days and things would mysteriously start working again. Not one of the half-dozen incidents were actually caused by my computer.

This is going to seem like a stupid question, but if I do get a laptop over here and it’s not configured to work with my specific DSL modem, what do I do? Just plug its Ethernet cable into my DSL modem and hope for the best?

We have a support call scheduled for “1-5 PM” tomorrow. I’m really scared that the guy is going to show up, do a few tests, shrug and say he can’t figure out what the problem is, and then tell us to reinstall Windows or something.

There’s still the possibility that the problem is on your property; specifically somewhere between the DSL cable ‘termination point’ (probably a box on the side of your house) and your computer. That is, in the phone wiring in your house, the line filters, the other phones, or the dsl modem box.

(But the fact that it was working, and suddenly stopped when you didn’t change anything (you didn’t, right? No new software installed on your computer, no new phone or answering machine plugged in, etc.?) makes this a less likely explaination.

But you might try eliminating this possibility by going directly from the termination point into your dsl modem box and then into your computer. You can probably do this without actually moving your whole computer out to the termination point. Move the dsl modem out there, unplug the dsl cable from the house and plug it directly into the dsl modem box, and run an extension cord up the side of the house, in thru a window, and plug it into your computer. Make sure this extension cord is good; you probably will need a cat-3 or cat-5 one. But this setup bypasses all the other wiring, filters, and phones in the house.

If it works this way, the problem is indeed inside your house. But if it still doesn’t work, the problem really is somewhere out there in the DSL providers lines, despite what the technician is telling you. (Or it might be that your dsl modem box has suddenly gone bad. But those are generally rented from the dsl provider, so that too is their responsibility to fix.)

First of all, if the technician is going to show up, he will definitely be able to tell if you’re getting a good DSL signal into your house, to the modem, and out of the modem. If all this works, then the problem is with your computer setup. Otherwise, the technician will isolate where the breakdown occurs. Better hope it’s not due to any wiring inside your house.

For your first question, if you’re using Win XP, just plug in the ethernet cable. Go to Start, Connect to, Show all connections, Create a new connection, etc. But why bother if the tech will come tomorrow.

It could be the modem itself, too.


The tech support guy says that he thinks it’s a winsock problem and that somehow my winsock has become corrupted. He furthermore says that this could affect both computers on my home network (both machines are having the same problem). [/QUOTE]

Holy Crap! That’s terrible. Two different machines are having a problem connecting to the Internet, and they’re blaming it on Winsock? Good lord. The chances of both machines having winsock problems develop at the exact same time are very very remote. Further, if you can resolve or ping things, your winsock is more than likely fine. Even if it times out, as long as it resolves the name to an IP address. Further check for Winsock. Go to the command prompt like you did for the ping. Type ipconfig. If it lists your IP address, your Winsock is probably fine.

Sounds like a bad DSL modem. Doesn’t sound like a problem with your computers.

You say you have 2 computers at home, both of which can access the internet? How are they hooked up? Is there a router involved, or do you have internet connection sharing enabled?

What were you doing with the computer when the problem first appeared?

What operating systems are they using? Win XP or something different? What browser are you using?

What tests did the tech. support guy have you run? Do you see a lot of packet loss when pinging to en external site? Did he have you run a tracert at all?

Basically, I need a whole lot more information… there are many possibilities here; could be a bad modem, could be bad cabling, could be the router (if there is one) needs to be reset, could be the NIC driver has gotten corrupted and needs to be reinstalled, a Winsock problem? Possible I guess, but usually that will cause the computer to not be able to pull an IP address externally and will give you an APIPA address (169.x.x.x).

What I’m afraid of is that the technician will show up tomorrow, hook a laptop up to the modem, find that it works just spiffy and say “good luck!” on his way out the door. I’ve seen this happen many times (I do tech. support for a cable ISP).

[**As a side note, yeah some tech. support people work off a script, but not all. I can’t speak to your DSL company, but in the outfit I work for it works like this:

-you have problems, you call tech. support and talk to a tier 1 tech. he/she pulls up the modem in a diagnostic tool. If the modem looks good, off you go! Tranferred to tier 2. If the modem does not look good, some more troubleshooting follows… all basic stuff, no script involved. After this, if the modem still looks bad, a truckoll is scheduled.

-if you get transferred to tier 2 (the National helpdesk) because the modem looks good, they will run through some troubleshooting with the computer itself. Here is where you have techs that work from a script. They can’t fix it? Off you go to tier 3!

-at tier 3 (that’s me!), I will review what has been done previously (hoping they took good notes for me), and troubleshoot further. My job at tier 3 is to investigate the odd kind of issues, catch problems that tier 1 and 2 should have caught but didn’t, or either schedule a truckroll or refer you to the proper people once I have figured out what the problem is.

This system is unwieldy and a hassle, but usually works well. The company I work for does not want to roll a truck without need… both because it costs an average of $85 per appointment, and the fact that if the problem is NOT with our equipment we have wasted your time, the field tech’s time, money, and after all that, you are still left without your internet connection. And now you, the customer, are pissed and more likely than not blame us for your pissed-offedness.**]

Not necessarily… a Winsock error will result in an APIPA address, so that might fool someone. If the IP address starts with a 169, then the computer is not pulling an IP address externally. Could be a Winsock error, or could be an unplugged cable, bad NIC, firewall, etc. etc. etc.

I agree both computers developing Winsock errors simultaneously is extremly unlikely… this is why I want to know how they are hooked up (one computer hooked to the modem with ICS turned on and 2 NICs, for example… this topology could result in 2 computers having 'net difficulties from 1 Winsock error). Could well be a bad modem, but without some more information you are jumping to an unwarranted conclusion. :wink:

Computer #1 is running Windows XP, connected to a 2Wire DSL modem via Ethernet cable. Computer #2 is running Windows Me, connected to a USB wireless adapter that picks up a signal from the 2Wire modem.

Nothing. It worked fine earlier in the day, and then later in the day I went to browse something and everything was mondo slow and refused to load. Nothing had been downloaded for over a week. No unusual browsing earlier that day.

Typically, Firefox, although I fired up IE to do most of the troubleshooting required by the help desk yesterday as they were unfamiliar with Firefox’s user interface.

No tracert. Pinged; no packet loss. Pinged; no packet loss. Pinged; 100% packet loss. Pinged; 100% packet loss. Pinged a bunch of other sites; 100% packet loss. They had me delete cookes and temporary Internet files. They confirmed that all modem settings were correct. They had me do a netsh command from the cmd prompt that was supposed to reset winsock. They did an IP release and then renew (also from the cmd prompt). Ran ipconfig several times during this process and every time got back a valid IP address and gateway.

Yeah, me too.

Might be worthwhile to consider backing up any personal files and copies of your network card drivers, then reloading windows. Granted it will take a few hours but its fairly simple to do and will decisively fix many a twitchy machine.

Right, but if it was pulling a 169 address, she wouldn’t be able to ping yahoo or anything else. Nothing would resolve. Another quick check, can you ping the other computer? If they can ping and respond to each other, winsock is probably fine.