Not Taking The Most Direct Route(r)

, , , | Working | April 5, 2018

(It is December of 2007, so while smartphones and data plans exist, they are still uncommon. I am a computer technician, although I am off work now on maternity leave with my oldest daughter. After coming home from a day of running errands and Christmas shopping, I try to check something on the Internet and find that I don’t have access. I power-cycle both my router and modem, and do some rudimentary troubleshooting to make sure that it’s not any of my equipment or cables. I find nothing wrong, so I call my ISP. After asking for my account information and entering it, the technician asks what the problem is.)

Me: “I just got home and can’t get online. I’ve already double-checked all the equipment on my end, and while everything can reach the modem’s external address, it can’t get past it. Is there an outage in my area?”

Tech: “I can check on that, but I just need to do some troubleshooting, first.”

Me: “You mean like power off and on the modem and computer and everything? I’ve already done all that and more.”

Tech: “Well, we have to go through our steps.”

Me: *sighs audibly* “So, there’s no way to skip to the end, here?”

Tech: “Can I get you to unplug your modem, wait 15 seconds, and then plug it back in?”

(I roll my eyes and follow through his prescribed steps, which are actually less thorough than what I have already done. I’m trying to be patient, but I can hear my husband having difficulty with the baby, and it’s already been a long day. We get to the end of his checklist and he tells me he’s looking into my account and reports for my area.)

Tech: “Well, there’s no outage, but… Oh, I see. Your Internet access was shut down because your computer has a virus.”

Me: “Seriously? You had the information that my Internet access was shut down by your company deliberately, and you still had me jump through all of those hoops? When was I going to be notified that my Internet access was going to be shut off?”

Tech: “We sent you an email.”

Me: “You sent me an email. And how was I going to get my email when you shut off my Internet access? Why didn’t someone call?”

Tech: “You said you didn’t want calls.”

Me: “I didn’t want sales calls. Calls when you are going to shut down the service I pay for are a completely different matter. What makes you think that I have a virus?”

Tech: “It says here that you do.”

Me: “Does it say anywhere what symptoms prompted that diagnosis?”

Tech: *in a rather condescending tone* “If we say you have a virus, you have a virus. You’ll have to download a virus checker from our website and clean it off before we can reinstate your Internet access.”

Me: *chuckling to myself in awe* “Setting aside for a minute the impossibility of me downloading a virus checker from your website when I have no Internet access, I find it unlikely that I have a virus. I have better antivirus software than you have on your website, the virus definitions are updated automatically, and they’re run frequently on all computers. I haven’t had a virus alert on any of my machines in months. So, again, I ask: what prompted the diagnosis? What were my computers doing that made you think that I had a virus? Perhaps there is another explanation.”

Tech: “It says your computer was constantly asking for an Internet address.”

Me: *head-desk* “So, you were getting flooded with DHCP requests.”

Tech: “Yes, because of a virus.”

Me: “That’s not a virus. That’s a dying router.” *starts disconnecting the router from the modem, and connecting my desktop to the modem directly*

Tech: “I’m not following.”

Me: “Clearly. Do you have the specs for the modem I purchased from you guys in front of you?”

Tech: “Of course.”

Me: “How many computers can be hooked up to that modem directly?”

Tech: “Just one.”

Me: “Exactly. I’m not sure if I have made this clear or not, but I don’t have just one computer; I have four. So, they’re not directly hooked up to the modem; they’re hooked up to the modem via a router. When computers are using a router as an Internet gateway, they don’t ask the ISP’s DHCP server for an IP address; they request one from the router’s built-in DHCP server. The only machine that asks for an address from your DHCP server is the router itself. So, if you’re getting flooded with DHCP requests, it’s not a virus-riddled computer like it would be if there was only one computer hooked up. It’s a malfunctioning router.”

Tech: “I don’t think that’s right.”

Me: “It’s right. I’m a technician by trade. No offense meant, but I took so much networking in school I’ve probably forgotten more than they taught you when you took the job. So, I need you to turn my Internet access back on again.”

Tech: “But you haven’t removed the virus.”

Me: “There is no virus. We’ve been through this. I’ve hooked my main desktop up to the modem directly while we were talking. Hook me up for half an hour. If I’m right, the problem will be solved. If I’m wrong and you start getting flooded with requests, shut it back down again, but I know I’m right. I need Internet access to check to see if there’s new firmware for my router so I can fix it. If there isn’t, I’ll just go out and buy a new one.”

(It took a little more wheedling, and finally asking if I needed to get a supervisor involved, before he agreed to turn my access back on for an hour as a test. I got online, found there were no newer firmware updates for my router, and since it was a few years old, anyway, I went and got a new router. Unsurprisingly, my ISP did not get any more DHCP flooding after that from my address. I’d like to say that was the last time I had a ridiculous issue with that ISP, but sadly it was not, and even more sadly, living rurally, it was the only broadband ISP I could get. Things have improved dramatically since I moved and had a choice to switch to someone else.)

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