H2’s Internet, The how and whys surrounding it.
By Earl WB6AMT
Tonight everyone will get the behind the scenes information about HARC H2 repeater on Apex Peak.( not really on Apex…) query me on that if you want.
This will be a ham radio story…even if it does sound like a fairy tale at times, stick with me.
Originally when the H2 repeater ( a pair of CDM 1550’s + a DMK URi + a flat pack mobile duplexer) was located at my residence, it was found that the Allstar node would be an excellent way to link it or connect it to the HARC Hub at H1.
For the few months that it was on the air at my QTH, it was apparent that this capability had to go with the repeater when we got it to a real mountaintop communications site.
The problem was no internet service was available for the Allstar node to connect to.
At first there was talk of a T-mobile hotspot but that was dropped. So then it was decided that a radio link was going to be the best route…but what type?
There was discussion about a 420Mhz duplex radio link, but after researching the equipment costs for four radios and antennas and duplexers or attention was diverted to looking at a microwave hop to Apex , which seemed at the time was going to be the most reliable and money wise the most economical.
Ubiquity equipment was considered because there was so much of it in service already and the price was very attractive.
The club settled on the Litebeam series of 5.8Ghz equipment
#2 Litebeam at WB6AMT QTH
This was going to be a fairly good location in my opinion, because I could actually see clearly the radio site from here up on Apex.
Pointing the dish was a breeze…6 degrees uptilt and a little to the right and we were looking right at the site through the mounting hole for the nose cone transceiver radio.
When the litebeams had been configured on the ground they were taken to Apex by Eric N6YKE and Don AA7AU and installed, but they didn’t work, couldn’t seem to find the signal from the unit at my house.
After bringing the Litebeam down and reconfiguring it again and testing it by Tony WB6MIE, it was taken back up again….. again a failed attempt to connect with the unit on the ground (My QTH). It was brought down again and this time we were going to employ a different, tried and trued method of installation that I had used for decades lining up microwave dishes in the past.
The third installation trip consisted of Lawrence N6YFN, Shane KG7QWH and Earl WB6AMT
The path from my QTH to Apex is 10.1 miles and clear path.
Lawrence connected to the laptop inside the shack and was connected to the Litebeam, while Shane was up the pole bolting the Litebeam in place, as soon as the antenna was pointing at the location that I wanted…..instantly Lawrence yelled out …WE HAVE ACQUIRED SIGNAL!
Shane started to tightened the bolts. At that point we thought, why not not see if we can pick up a little better signal either way of the current position….one mark on the mount to the left,….. no the signal is going down. It was moved to one mark to the right……no the signal was going down again. Brought it back to the original point and that was our strongest signal.
The 5.8Ghz 200mw litebeams have been up providing the consistent internet connection to our repeater system for over a year and half with good connections to the HARC Hub as well as from our associated repeater WB6MIE on Pleasants Peak in Los Angeles using Allstar.
After H2 was up and running, Glenn N8HC installed a pair of CDM’s at his QTH in Old Henderson and H3 joined the HARC repeater network, providing coverage in Henderson and down 95/93 that was not available before.
So what happened to H2 around the time of the end of the summer that changed, making it almost unusable to any connections on the network?
That was the key, the problems appear to be coming from the internet and not the repeater itself.
The repeater stand alone to all the radio users on H2, it sounded great and good coverage around town. Our attentions were then focused on the internet service from Cox. This started a long relationship between myself and several (if not a lot) of Cox’s customer support calls. After the first few calls I decided to use the chat capabilities so that I had the actual chat conversationd saved as a transcript ( my desktop actually has a COX Transcipt folder now).
Of course the Cox people felt that the problems were at my end at the modem, bring it in and exchange it.
Ok, that shouldn’t be too difficult. However with COVID conditions that meant that we can stand in line outside down the sidewalk enjoying Las Vegas sunshine at the middle of the day. 50 minutes later and 5 minutes inside getting the new modem, I was headed home. With the assistance of Lawrence, H2 was back online.
Then a total crap out on the new modem a few days later, so it was back to Cox again. My thoughts to investigate LVNET…HughesNet even Century net was considered in an attempt to get reliable internet service for H2.
The recommendation was made to go ahead and purchase the best quality modem available. A Motorola MB7220 DOCSIS 3.0 modem and new Tp-link 8port Gigabit switch was installed and connected to the Litebeam at my house going to Apex.
Alas, no change to the sporatic internet service and pinging the line at my house indicated that the amount of packet loss was very high at times.
For those of you unfamiliar with some IP terms and conditions. The way that we use the internet to connect to remote nodes is by Voip or Voice over Internet Protocal, this is the same type of service that is used by those with a “Majic Jack” telephone at there house.
What we were experiencing was a Packet loss ( where data packets were being dropped, creating a space or hole between communication streams. That was occurring on my Outbound data traffic or transmit from my house to Cox’s distribution hub. Diagnostics indicated that I was receiving all inbound traffic to my modem just fine.
Well here we are again at that point that we know that the problem is with Cox’s equipment, back online to Cox’s customer support chat. My frustration was beginning to show to the CS people because now I am screaming about not being able to use my Voip equipment at all. ( Anything other then 0% packet loss is devastating to Voip communications). I maintained that I rely on Voip service for communications 24 hours a day and I have been paying for a service that Cox’s inability to provide adequate service was costing me a lot of money.
Somewhere in the mean time they did send a technician out and replaced the coax from the apartment to the Tap point and mentioned that the DA (distribution amp ) at the pole was dated to be about 30 years old and it should be looked….I never saw a technician come back to check the DA.
We now look back about 5 weeks ago at a door hanger from Cox to the neighborhood saying that the service would be interrupted the next day for service improvements……HAH!
I’ll beleive it when I see it.
Lo and behold we have clean internet, packet loss 0% service, it’s great…….. for the next 16 days, then it’s in the toilet again.
The next chat lasted 3-1/4 hours, transferred twice more to the Escalation Dept. we are supposedly being sent to Level 2 trouble shooting where they can run tests on the line and see what I am bitching about……OOPS, it’s after 10 pm so they are closed now, but call back tomorrow between 8 and 10pm and they can continue from here.
Sunday morning bright and early with my most pleasant and effervescent personality I could muster, started the chat. OOPS! they are closed today, please call back Monday thru Friday 8-10pm.
Mondays call didn’t go as pleasantly as I had hoped, I felt that the first person today to listen to me was going to be a supervisor who promptly didn’t want any of what she had just heard and escalated me to the next level immediately………while I waited I had all my data, screen shots available and was ready for the next round. At this point I have repeated the same long drawn out experience with the technical details to assist getting the problem fixed, but his supervisor was not available, so we need to start at the beginning to see what is happening to your equipment, I’m resetting your modem…NO!!!…and I was disconnected.
Tuesday I had work to do and didn’t get back with Cox until the next day, last Wednesday. Pretty much the same BS as before except this person could actually ping my line and see the results. 0%….there is nothing wrong with our equipment, suggest sending a tech out to check from your modem, then the last 20 minutes of a 3hr 44 minute chat he says, wait a minute I just saw a 2.5% packet loss. NOW that I have seen an issue I can send in a work order to maintenance for you.
My Cox Transcript folder is getting bigger by the day at this point, but my patience has been totally exhausted at this point.
On February 4 I connect with the FCC’s consumer complaint section and outline the past 6 months chats and steps that I had taken and passed on to Cox along with screen shot showing the intermittent service and packet loss numbers.
Friday morning I get a message from the FCC saying that they have contacted Cox and instructed them to contact me immediate and that I should be hearing from them shortly regarding a resolution to my problem.
Later that afternoon ( Friday) a Cox technician shows up and wants the run down on a disgruntled customer. Without saying any words to him other than check my tap first and tell me what the packet loss is and I will talk to you then.
Surprise we are getting 2-4 packet loss and jitter on the line of 20 to 30????
Then his words rang out like bells ringing….it should actually be 0% at all times otherwise your Voip won’t work he said.
Standby…it gets better. While we are talking a Cox Service truck with a lift bucket pulls up in front of the apartments and the technician approaches us.
It seem that there is a priority service demand ( from corporate maintenance) to this neighborhood because of a high level of leakage and interference on the cables have been isolated to this 3 block area, I will find it and fix it today.
Back to the technician I was talking with before the interruption, It seems that this guy was involved in a hub upgrade in the area about three weeks earlier because of the overload that had occurred because of the two-way data traffic caused by the massive home school traffic to Cox’s system. They added an additional hub at that time and we say improvement. Since the Friday contact, the manager of the Escalation dept called Monday morning and was very adamant about all the steps that were taken Friday and Saturday to solve MY problem. Here is my direct contact info, please feel free to contact if any future issues occur.
I guess he needs to let the FCC know that he did everything in his power to satisfy this customer……we shall see.
I did respond back to the FCC Consumer Complaint section reporting the steps I was told and the resolution that did occur and will notify them if conditions change.
I could have saved myself a lot of time if I had known about the FCC’s involvement in consumer internet concerns.
Thank you to Nate N7BSD for the link to the FCC that finally got the balling on H2’s internet issues.
My advice…contact the FCC if you feel that your internet service is not up to par based on some sound technical measurements or tests.
Dave W3QQQ has provided tonight’s Tek Net audio stream