It happens to everybody sooner or later. You’ve got an important document you have to email right away, and you suddenly lost your Internet connection.
First off, your life probably does not depend on your internet connection. Your career might, but that’s not too likely, at least for short term outages. If it truly does, you need to come up with a Plan B, pronto! If you just think it does, then maybe you don’t have a life! We’ll talk about “Plan B” a bit later, but first let’s start with some basic troubleshooting.
Check to make sure some fool with a backhoe didn’t just cut your cable. Don’t laugh, it Happened to me! Of course, that’s easier to check if the backhoe is in your back yard at the time…
Anyway, the first thing you should always check is your modem. All broadband modems have an entire array of blinking lights on the front. They’re not there just to impress the user; incredibly, they actually provide useful information! Get familiar with how many and what color lights are on when everything is working. My DSL modem has four green lights during normal operation. They are labeled “Power”, “DSL”, “Internet”, and “Ethernet.” Cable modems are similar. “Power” is self-explanatory. “DSL” indicates connection to the phone line. “Internet” is connection to the Internet, and “Ethernet” is a wired connection to your computer or router.
The router will also have lots of lights, indicating wired and wireless status.
The computer or other device you’re using will have a connection icon that gives current status. Get familiar with that also.
The easiest thing to try first, no matter what the lights are telling you, is shut down the computer, then remove (unplug) the power cord from the modem and the router if you have one. Wait 60 seconds, then first apply power back to the modem, wait up to 3 minutes, and see if all the important lights are back on. Next, do the same with the router. Finally, start the computer. In most cases, if the phase of the Moon is right and you bowed toward the East three times, You’ll be back up lickety-split, no problem. If not, try to localize the issue:
- Try to connect using another computer or device, if you have one. If you can, then the problem is the computer.
- Try a wired connection if your problem is wireless, or vice-versa.
- If you have a router, try bypassing it and going direct from router to computer.
- If your connection is wired, try a different cable — your cable may have failed, or been chewed by your dog, cat, skunk, or pet platypus. Also check the cable going from the modem to the wall, especially if you don’t have all the lights on the modem.
If all that doesn’t work, call your ISP. The trouble may be on their end. The first thing they will tell you to do is all the things I just told you, so maybe you can save yourself some hold time and aggravation! Maybe they have a Fool with a backhoe somewhere in the neighborhood…
Now… About that plan B. If your internet connection is that important, you need a back-up plan. Fortunately, there are a number of easy alternatives.
- Many smartphones can be used as a wireless hotspot, i.e., it can become a source of wi-fi, using your cellular connection. Be cautious with this, some carriers don’t allow it, others will charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege, and you will go through a lot of data even if they do allow it.
- Consider a dedicated portable hotspot. These will work much the same as the smartphone, but with a separate data plan you will have to pay for.
- If you’re working from a laptop or tablet, find a public hotspot. Most public libraries, coffeehouses, and many other public buildings have them now, and many are free. Caution: Don’t do anything involving sensitive information (Like your banking) on a public hotspot. You don’t know what may be happening to your data on it’s way to it’s destination.
- If all else fails, and you still have a land line, you can use dial-up. Yes, I know, it’s as slow as a drugged snail, but it might be better than nothing. You will probably have to buy a USB dial-up modem, because most late-model computers no longer have internal modems.
All of these alternatives require some pre-planning, but if your connection is that important (In other words, you lose money every minute it’s down), it’s wise to look into them.