Consumer Interest Consumer Tech Network Technologies Raspberry Pi

Consumer Tech: Home Internet stopped working


We woke up yesterday to no Internet. The usual remedies consumers go through did nothing to resolve the issue. What to do?

The details – November 25, 2020

The usual restarts or my router and the cable modem did not work. I plugged in my work laptop directly to the cable modem for some quick tests but that did not work.

I plugged my work-issued VPN router directly to the cable modem and it did not pick up an IP and re-establish the tunnel.

When I logged into my router I saw that its WAN IP was listed as, which means none at all.

I called the ISP twice. Both time they said they could “see” my modem, and they tried to restart it on their end, but that did not seem to do anything at all, based on the constant status LEDs (see picture below). I got my service visit moved up from Dec 11th to Dec 2nd, but still that would mean a week without Internet – not so great when three people are relying on it for their work.

I rebooted the cable modem a couple times at least. Nothing changed.

Then I started some research on quickie alternatives. Ask a friend from work for a spare Cradlepoint air card? They’re already out on vacation. Get a Chinese-made unlocked hotspot with pre-purchased data? Seems fishy, and ultimately expensive. Verizon brand hotspot? We had a borrowed one. Very finicky. And no ethernet ports.

Raspberry Pi + DIY approach?

At one point in the evening, convinced I would have to wait days for for a visit from the cable guy, I rigged up a spare Raspberry Pi to act as a router between a mobile hotspot (a companion tablet to a Verizon phone) and my Linksys router. Why bother? Why not just use the hotspot directly? Mostly because it’s a pain in the rear to reprogram all those Internet of Things devices one has in ones home these days, notably the several Echo Dots, but as well, a wireless printer, a few laptops, Firesticks, tablets, etc. With this approach I keep the WiFi SSID as it was for all those devices. And, it sort of worked! At least I got one Echo Dot to work. I didn’t push my luck. This stuff consumes a lot of data, even when “idle.”

To be continued…

Linksys WRT1200AC status lights – when healthy!
Cable Modem tatus lights – when operating normally

But I am pretty good at troubleshooting. What I know that less experienced people may not is that all the testing I’ve done to that point was not ironclad proof of failure of the cable modem. I know the traditional advice of old is to hook up a laptop directly to the ethernet port and work with it that way. Furthermore the cable company support said that my status lights were reading normally. So, when I tested my work laptop? Are you kidding? That thing has so many problems when I switch between SSIDs due to some new security software – it loves to display the Globe in the system tray, and the only recourse is to reboot. That’s what I was seeing, but notice I said a quickie test? I did not have time to do that reboot and all that. And that work-issued VPN router? I don’t know how that thing really works either. Never having set it up that way I did not trust reading too much into its results (which was essentially an orange status light instead of the usual white).

So when I had more time in the evening, I hooked up a home laptop which I know should work. After a cable modem reboot in fact I did get an IP and could surf the Internet. That was a glimmer of hope. So I put my router back in place. Still it did not pick up an WAN IP address. Still reading for its IP.

Then I put the laptop back, writing down the IP, subnet mask and default gateway. Then I put my router back, switched its WAN mode from DHCP to fixed IP, putting on the exact IP address the laptop had picked up, with correct subnet mask and default gateway. Still it was not working. When the router is not working the WAN status light is sort of orange-ish. It’s white (pictured above) when the WAN link is communicating.

I decided the fault should lie more with my router than anywhere else, and since it wasn’t working and no number of power cycles was changing that situation, I decided that a factory reset is the thing to try. The last thing I could try. I noted the exact name and passwords of my SSIDs, held the reset button for 15 seconds until the status lights flicked out, and let it start up. It went through a start-up process, which i saw after connecting to its default IP of It was clear it was not seeing the cable modem at the point where it should, but it had some very specific advice to try: power off cable modem, wait two minutes, power it back on, and then it would try again. And that did work! Yeah!

What may have precipitated this

My local cable company was recently bought by a much bigger company. I know for a fact what my WAN IP used to be, and I see it has changed. They now draw from a giant pool of IPs – a /14 in CIDR notation – that’s 262,000 addresses – that belongs to the new owner. So I believe the problem occurred due to a poor implementation of the dhcp protocol within my router, or a poor interplay between my router’s DHCP client and the ISP’s DHCP server. But I can’t research that line of troubleshooting because the ISP’s DHCP policies would require a lot of time-consuming experimentation on my part to reverse engineer based on observed behaviour under different conditions. And I would need an open source DHCP client – but I have the Raspberry Pi running dnsmasq for that, so that end could gather all the needed client information.

Prior to this acquisition I would tend to keep the same WAN IP for years – that’s how stable it was.

Another approach

Very germane to this topic is the fact that my neighbor down the street experienced his own Internet outage the day after I did! His solution was to buy a better cable modem. I did not know you could do that – I thought they were proprietary. He also saw his router with the WAN address. And his approach also worked. This makes me less sure my router was really at fault – maybe Altice screwed up their DHCP service for half a day.


Unusual for me, I’m going to write the conclusion before writing the tedious part which is the full explanation in the middle.

By the end of the day I got the Internet working. After isolating the problem to my home router, the Linksys WRT1200AC, and determining that any amount of power cycling was not clearing things up, a factory reset did the trick! The cable modem and my cable Internet service was fine all along.

References and related

How to turn your Raspberry Pi into a router which shares your hotspot with your home router.

The Linksys WRT1200AC is no longer sold. It looks like the newer version is the WRT1900AC – it even looks identical. It’s a good router. I know there are fancier solutions out there, but there are also worse ones as well, so I can only give my qualified endorsement:

DHCP and CIDR notation are both described in great detail in their respective Wikipedia articles.

Linux Network Technologies

Switch home router to DD-WRT: FAIL

I am having problems with my home router, a Cisco E1200, especially with the wireless connections. I thought it might be interesting to try to run it using the open source routing code DD-WRT. Since I am a Linux geek DD-WRT had some attraction for me and I figured it really couldn’t make matters worse. Boy was I wrong.

The details
Dropped connections, slow response, degradation over time – that is all par for the course for my E-1200. Again, mostly affecting WiFi.

Starting from this bare-bones installation write-up,, I did indeed manage to upgrade the firmware to DD-WRT.

Things they don’t tell you that you probably want to know

Initial login password is blank, and the username is root, not admin.

I wanted to have the SSID I had been using preserved with the same password as well, so that, ideally, I would not have to revisit my devices to get them to learn about a new SSID setup. This was especially important to me due to a wireless Canon 3600 series printer which is particularly difficult to set up. You do it once, fumbling around until it works, and hope to never have to do it again.

And…yes, it auto-created that SSID and I saw client logged into it, so I guess it preserved the password as well. I don’t really know the characteristics that a client uses to decide this is the same SSID as before. The MAC address may be part of that decision. But since this was the same hardware the MAC address was preserved as well.

The results
My hard-wired connection worked pretty well. But WiFi, if you can believe it, was even worse than before! My Office Dell PC just would not pick up an IP address although it did connect to it. When you run ipconfig and only see an address beginning with 169.254. you are in trouble, and that’s what I had. My Dell 2-in-1 laptop could connect OK. But sometimes it worked, sometimes not, over WiFi, and worse than before.

And although some of the Linuxy type things looked somewhat familiar, like bridging with a br0 interface, I didn’t want to invest a lot of time debugging my issues. And the web GUI was a little slow.

ssh was disabled by default. No idea how to turn it on. Do I didn’t have the usual comfort of a Linux command line in working with it.

Issuing commands via the web GUI was just too painfully slow.

Also, come to think of it, it did not grab an IP over its WAN connection. Now I have an unusual ISP that permits me two valid Internet addresses. My Cisco Meraki takes the other address. But rebooting cable modem, Cisco router, etc in any combination just did not permit me to get that 2nd IP address I had been using. Eventually I knocked my Meraki offline. I wasn’t expecting that as it normally runs flawlessly and I hadn’t touched it.

So needless to say I was pretty disgusted and gave up. Question is, could I go back to the Cisco firmware??

Back to Cisco’s embrace
Well it turns out you can go back. Cisco meanwhile had released a newer version of firmware for it and made it available for download over the Internet.

I got the initial Cisco-looking page but had a really tough time logging in! None of the default of previous username/password combinations worked!! root/(blank), admin/admin, (blank)/root, admin/1234, admin/previous_password, none of it let me in! I tried a reset. No go. I read different directions on how to reset. Someone mentioned a 30/30/30 rule. No go. (I guess that was 30 seconds reset, 30 seconds wait, 30 seconds without power). The more official recommendation seemed to be 10 seconds reset. Eventually one of those resets did work – I think the 10 second one, and the default admin/admin got me in. That was a relief!

I figured if my SSID carried over to DD-WRT, surely it would carry over going back to Cisco. But, strangely, it did not. The name was similar, but not the same. Old name: Cisco76538. New: Linksys76538. No way to change it. Thanks Cisco, that was really helpful. CORRECTION. You know how you get used to certain settings? I had WPS enabled. For some reason you enable it in two places. Well, the one place, if you turn it off, allows you to change the SSID! But I need WPS (WiFi protected setup) for some basic Canon printers I have. So I don’t think this is an out.

So I had to visit all my clients one-by-one to re-enter the WiFi info, I still haven’t gotten to that one printer though! And my Wink Hub was no fun to re-configure either.

And performance is inconsistent once again, but much better than under DD-WRT. It’s too early to tell if it is an improvement over the older firmware.

And I gave up on using a 2nd IP address at home. I just channel everything through the Meraki.

Some more thoughts on why the office computer did not get an IP address though it was connected to the DD-WRT network
I’ve seen this problem just this week with a different DHCP server. I think you may only get a 169.254… address if your DHCP server already has your MAC address in its table, so it decides you don’t need another IP, or something like that. But things didn’t seem to get any better after a reboot of the router. So I don’t know.

Some more thoughts on why WiFi performs better through Meraki
The Cisco E1200 is a cheap, 2.4 GHz-band router. It can be set to auto-hop if one of the channels gets interference – that’s one of the WPS buttons. I’m beginning to suspect that is what is happening as I do see the neighbor’s SSIDs. Meraki is dual band, 5 GHz + 2.4 gHz and has the intelligence to use both as needed. I think it has MIMO as well. So it’s almost always going to do better than a cheap home router.

What I ended up doing
In the end I bought a dual-band router: Linksys WRT1200AC for $91 from Amazon. Turns out my Dell computers do not support 5 gHz. who knew?

Upgrade firmware to DD-WRT? Maybe with enough effort I could have gotten DD-WRT to work. It allows more control than Cisco’s firmware. But with the minimal configuration I was willing to do it was basically useless – very inconsistent and just not working with some devices.

References and related
Very brief DD-WRT install instructions for an E1200:
Official E1200 download site: