Saturday, February 6, 2016

Internet at Willow Valley

[Update March 1, 2016:  After actually years of recurrent problems, SrTV tested my system to find a 27db (unacceptable) drop in signal from cabling problems, this time checked with an appropriate meter as opposed to WV's multimeter which showed no such problem.    Partial recabling was then done.  

The cabling in this building is coax R6 as opposed to the better R11 and much more appropriate for computers, 10-base-2 ethernet designed for the purpose and used in new construction here.   When WV obtains a newer cable tester, the coax cabling will again be checked for proper signal levels.]

Recently I have noticed frequent dropouts (timeouts) in my internet service at Willow Valley.  Dropouts occur when the server at the provider's site does not respond.

It works like this.   My computer sends out a request to internet.   If there is no reply after 16 tries or 4 seconds it gives up.    It may try again and again.   Essentially, my computer will "lock up" for many minutes.  

It is a serious problem.   With limited mobility, I rely on my smartphone for phoning and my phone uses WiFi where available and therefore internet.   Indeed, I use internet for all phones so that I can be reached instantly anywhere.

That does not work with dropouts.

Worse, however, recently my phone was bricked during an upgrade as connection was lost during a dropout.   I had to get a new phone.

Appealing for help to MIS here, I was advised that my dropouts problem was WiFi and that Wi-Fi is not supported by MIS.     It was questioned as to whether I had a problem at all.  

(In my opinion, if the internet service provider is not providing reliable service, I am not getting what I am paying for.  I see this problem with no other provider here, such as hot spots and DSL.)

That response has been the answer in the past whenever I have had a problem.  Indeed, I have replaced WiFi routers five times without any resolution of any problem.

I made the point to MIS that Willow Valley has been actively offering many courses in iPads which require WiFi for two years.

MIS was unaware that this training was being done.  There is a disconnect.   Indeed the responsibility for computers is badly splintered.  The internet responsibility is yet a third party.   And cabling is yet a fourth party.    Cabling here is littered with splitters, a known cause of delays and dropouts.

When I was a company officer and MIS director, I had ALL responsibilities to develop, broaden and maintain systems, and I think that is essential in any organization.  I don't think anything else can really work without users being shunted from one party to the next.   I could make no excuses.  That arrangement is what makes  quality control WORK.

So we have dropouts.

This time I replaced my modem, only to have problems continue.   I now started to watch logs.   (The ISP should be doing this.)   These showed problems.   I then checked Kiosks to find frequent signal delays and a probable endemic systems problem.

Living earlier in another retirement community, I found similar problems.   I suggested there that maybe they needed fiberoptics, but the management told me that nothing could be done to get it installed.   Period!

Get this...   I went to Verizon myself!!   Surprisingly, their engineer came right out, and we figured out together how to do it without digging up the streets.   Bottom line:  They installed fiberoptics.  Lumberton campus of Medford Leas now has fiberoptics.

To solve problems like this requires: recognition of need, leadership, communication, and coordination, a big order.    Dependency on computers, cell phones, and internet is only going to grow.

For example, Penn Medicine, which took over our local hospital, is working on ways to connect seniors better for services, especially where not offered locally.

I have long been an advocate to keep seniors better connected.   My senior help website gets lots of interest.   Willow  Valley itself has a mission to keep seniors connected as well (separate from other MIS activity), and does a good job of it up the point of tech support, for which it requires users to provide their own..

Without reliable internet this cannot happen.    I see too many seniors frustrated with no place to go when problems occur, and asked to resolve tech problems on their own or with expensive outside help.   Often they just give up.

There are other problems.  Those who use Windows now are newly exposed to serious privacy, security, and functionality problems best resolved by using virtual private network.    But VPNs require reliable connections.

For now, I have indicated some alternatives.   One is DSL or phone company based service.   Another is Comcast, but expensive, and uses our old cable grid. Another is cell access, via hotspot or more recently cell phones directly.    All these are described elsewhere on this site.

I ought to note that in its business system, Willow Valley does not use the slow satellite based system it provides for residents, which has known problems with latency or dropouts.  Still, there is technology to make satellite reliable, including simply providing enough capacity.

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