SmartRouter reveals DSLAM problem

This afternoon on a routine SmartRouter installation, we found a big problem with our local DSL carrier.  To avoid a slander lawsuit I’m not going to mention their name here, but anyone in this area knows the name of the DSL service provider.

Part of our SmartRouter deployments on DSL involve replacing the company-that-shall-not-be-named DSL router with a pair of devices — one COMTREND DSL modem and our SmartRouter, which has the PPPoE authentication on it.  This makes the DSL modem totally transparent to the outside world, and allows the SmartRouter to be in charge of all the outside and inside network security tasks.  This is important to note, because the company-that-shall-not-be-named DSL routers are routinely hacked and attacked, causing internet service to fail for anyone using company-that-shall-not-be-named DSL internet.  We have proven this concept hundreds of times, but this one was different…….

Our customer attempted to do a self-install on Wednesday, which failed.  Knowing I’d be in the city where he lived today, we agreed that I’d come down and do a complementary pro-install of his service.  I hooked everything up, feeling fairly confident that the issue must have been something I’d missed on the router when I configured it in my office before sending it to the customer.  Unfortunately, everything looked just fine.  Our COMTREND DSL modem was training up and getting a solid DSL connection, but our SmartRouter PPPoE connection would simply not connect up and receive an IP address.  We called company-that-shall-not-be-named tech support and were politely informed that the problem is with our “third party” equipment.  They say they can only support their routers, and wished us a good afternoon.

I tried two modems and two SmartRouters without success.  Something was weird.  I hooked the old company-that-shall-not-be-named DSL router back up – and it worked.  Well….at this point I’m feeling the irking feeling of egg sliding down the side of my face.  What in the world could be going on?  As a last-ditch effort to make things work, I reconfigured the company-that-shall-not-be-named DSL router into bridge mode, which should have made things work.  It didn’t.  No difference.

In order to put the company-that-shall-not-be-named DSL router back in router mode was to do a factory reset on it, which I did.  I watched as the DSL light trained, and watched the INTERNET light as I expect it to connect up, at which point in time I’d planned to shrug my shoulders, apologize to my customer, and go bury my head in the sand somewhere.  At this point something unexpected happened, the company-that-shall-not-be-named DSL router did not connect back up.

Great.  Now what?  I had walked in about 2 hours prior to a potential customer’s home where they had a sort-of-working DSL connection that I’d promised we could make work better, and I’d managed to pretty much break the entire thing.  So, back to the phone to call company-that-shall-not-be-named tech support again.  This time around things were slightly different.  I now had the company-that-shall-not-be-named DSL router connected, not our “third party equipment.”  So, they were forced to escalate things with tech support.  After a few minutes of chatting with our polite customer service representative on the phone, whilst she was chatting with tech support on her computer, we were told they found the problem — their DSLAM, a router on their end that assigns IP addresses to customers, was out of MAC address entries and was needing to be rebooted.  So, they rebooted it.  (Funny side note – at this point my customer’s phone buzzed…one of his students complained that he couldn’t access Google Drive and just couldn’t complete some homework.  Yup, that reboot knocked off every DSL customer in the entire service area!)

Before hanging up the phone, we disconnected the company-that-shall-not-be-named DSL router and plugged in our tandem of COMTREND DSL modem + SmartRouter and watched as everything worked just fine.  Yay!

At this point, I needed to make the SmartRouter a SmartRouter again, because during the troubleshooting, I’d done factory resets on our router as well, just to disprove that it was SmartRouter programming throwing things off.  After getting that done, we hooked everything back up, and……no connection.  Oh, boy.  This is getting interesting.  So, call #3 in to customer service.  Feeling fairly aggravated at this point, I managed to get the call escalated over to the “chatroom techs” a bit more quickly.  They had me plug the company-that-shall-not-be-named DSL router back in, which worked.  Great….here we go again.  I asked them if they could stay on the line while I moved our officially unsupported by company-that-shall-not-be-named equipment back in, which they reluctantly did.  This time around I felt rather dumb, as I moved the phone line over to our COMTREND DSL modem, I noticed I hadn’t plugged the SmartRouter ethernet port in after I reconfigured the SmartRouter, so it had no way to connect.  Duh.  After popping that in where it was supposed to be, everything worked fine.

So – a big thanks to my customer for his patience, and to company-that-shall-not-be-named customer service and tech support for fixing our problems.

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