Things I have learned suddenly being without reliable, or fast internet. Learn from my fail.

AT&T’s main hub was bombed on Christmas day. This lead to the fiber systems, 911, all phone lines going away about 5 hours after the bombing when generators ran out of fuel and water damage happened in some (probably all,) areas. I’ve seen some screenshots of conversations that range from the “incredibly bad” to “let’s just tear this down”.

Oh, they were on natural gas I’m told, but the gas company decided to shut them down as a bomb had gone off on top of the gas lines… ok, fair enough. For me, I’m without good internet, with two children who keep asking why Netflix doesn’t work, but otherwise finding my several years of tech adoption are becoming a joke.

The Sprint/T-Mobile hotspot fail

My first thought since Sprint / T-Mobile was working was to create a hotspot with the same name as my IoT WiFi to just get some stuff up and running. I had no great plans of putting on netflix or anything but being able to turn the 10 smart lights in my basement on seemed like a plan.

Yeah, quick discovery that I’m limited to 10 devices shot that plan in the foot. That’s the lights in the basement. *sigh* this is ok, I’ll use a flashlight and manually unscrew and screw bulbs back in to get light on. Whatever.

I have somewhere around 50 devices trying to connect to the IOT network (mini, mini, hub, hub, lenovo smart display, tv, tv, tv, alexa, 24 lights that I can think of, 8 smart switches, printer, yadda yadda yadda)

Keep in mind, I review these things and then they go into my daily life, I’m not like obsessed or anything.. no…

The connectivity fail

So even with that I was able to get a couple of things turned on, and then I go and try and deal with a couple of groups I admin. I can’t. Facebook is shot for me. I’m asking other admins to do things because I literally can take a screenshot, use messenger to send a screenshot, faster than I can pull up the menu to delete or remove a comment.

OK, poor administrator me. As a result I’m doing nothing and telling other admins what to look at. Whatever, admin problems.

I’m also unable to call about 3/4ths of Nashville. My assumption is this is AT&Ts fault. I mean, I know it is but a couple of the places are on other carriers… TM to TM works fine.

The midnight run to dad’s

My dad and stepmom are what you’d call Covid’s top targets. They’ve been inside since April. They lost communication at the start of this and then the temp went into the 15s. With AT&T phone, internet, TV, and 911 completely destroyed, Christmas found them completely cut off from everything.

I had enough internet to check the Nashville Electric Service power outage map, but realizing that nobody on AT&T could report that they were without power the family started to worry a bit.

Me being the only person within 40 miles who could be contacted I ran there at about midnight… what, no 7pm… never mind – it was a long day.. verified they had power, yelled a contingency plan to get to my house and we’d Lysol up a room in the event of a power outage. Should have had that plan in place to begin with.

Ah, but I’ve got an OTA TV

I tuned the Vizo I reviewed to over the air TV and… got… this

An in-escapable series of warnings about Smartcast loading and no network detected. I’m unsure if there’s a way around this but this was making me laugh. Yeah, no crap, there’s no internet that’s why I got an antenna.

After a while I got the TV on, then one of those warnings came back, and I decided to set up my wife’s phone to broadcast a hotspot. It’s not good enough for netflix but it did stop those warnings, or perhaps the warnings stop on their own. I don’t know.

It may be in the user manual, which I can’t download, because for some reason nothing will download (I can browse, but all downloads of any sort seem to die)

I still have heat

I’ve got a Nest thermostat. I recall in ye olden days that if you lost WiFi you might not be able to get the heat on. I’m still good at the moment but we’ve got some (crappy) plans with a space heater and a fire place and a stove.

I have no signal

Low bandwidth I expect. T-Mobile is not expecting everyone to suddenly be hotspotting, and I’d bet they have some traffic peering agreements with AT&T. The absolutely no signal, I did not expect.

See, I can get on my roof and look and see two of the T-Mobile/Sprint towers. There’s one half a mile away line of site, and one about 1.3 miles away same. Either one is generally fine. I’m rocking 1 – 2 bars at the moment and achieving a blazing 2mbps for a few seconds until I get a disconnect.

Overloaded or the towers were backed by AT&T I guess.

Plex perplex

So, I have a plex server on a computer in my house (yay). I have a couple of kids movies I’m legally allowed to stream but have transcoded into a different format for just this potential (yarr.) If my Vizio smart TV is on my network (which is down,) they cannot load Smartcast so I can’t plex. If the Vizio Smart TV is connected to a hotspot it cannot access the local network where my plex server is.

Womp womp.

Grabbing a USB drive. Might see if the Plex Android app that’s on my Shield is smart enough to handle this.

Netflix / Disney sync suddenly doesn’t

I know, I just was testing whether it would work or not. The answer is it doesn’t. My guess is T-Mobile has some sort of “uh uh, we need this bandwidth” switch.

VPN doesn’t work either

Not sure if same issue or connectivity issue but after a megabyte or two of data is transmitted via VPN it disconnects, the phone has no internet for about 30 seconds, and then subsequent calls to the VPN fail.

As I’m not attempting to be the problem I have not explored ways around this.

Save all your work in notepad

Due to the unreliability of the current connection anything over about a paragraph has the potential to be lost when the network connectivity changes… ugh..

All those out-of-the-way smart plugs you’ve got to get to now

So all the smart plugs that allowed me to hide cords and use space again… yeah, I’ve had to get to them to turn things on and off again…

Ah well, overall, we’re here, warm, have over the air TV, alive, and everyone we know is ok so this is just a warning to plan a lot of contingencies because until you’ve been without internet for a day or two you do not realize what works and doesn’t work.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts