Blighthouse Trouble

Of course, my titling this piece “Blighthouse Trouble” instead of the actual company name, “Brighthouse,” as in networks, will obscure it from Internet searches; however, we had a blight in our house on the network and it took Blighthouse far too long to eradicate the problem. Exposing yet another stupid company is not my objective. It’s just another example of a greedy corporation in the United States, and there’s nothing news-worthy in reporting that. This report is only to document how stupid companies are when it comes to supporting their products.

Until early 2014, I had very little experience in network products and technology when we started adding a large number of network devices.  These included iPhones, iPads, Windows and OSX computers, multiple IP surveillance cameras across our property, HomePlug power line adapters (with EOP/POE features), multiple Android Wi-Fi tablets (running picture slideshows) with front-facing cameras, UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or drones), a Windows 7 server, and numerous switches, routers, and modem to interconnect these devices.

I’d like to reinforce my neophyte knowledge of networks and their interconnecting devices. Everything my partner and I had installed was typically plug & play with minimal skills or knowledge required. So, I viewed each Blighthouse rep with expectations of high expertise and superior to anything I could understand. In the end, I finally realized with all the network devices I had configured and resolved issues, I had learned enough detail to figure out solutions to problems I never imagined I could understand.

But one day back in mid-2015, we started having problems with temporary bandwidth dropouts sporadically during the day. Our initial assumption was that the line voltage carrying the network signal to our equipment was dropping out. We watched daily as the download speed descended to 10% of its typical performance. Then after a few minutes, returned back to double digit download speeds.

We began trouble-shooting this problem with Blighthouse Networks support reps to systematically determine the point of failure. They sent out reps on separate dates over time to replace the wire from the road, replace the wire inside the house, and replace wall outlets previously installed by a Blighthouse rep. Each time they came to us, they identified some bogus problem they supposedly fixed; however, the dropouts continued to occur.

I was misled all the way up to the last visit by a Blighthouse rep who never said anything about their modem replacement product was also a router, as in combo. Based upon my support call to one intelligent trouble shooting rep, the field rep’s instruction was to install just a modem only, and from what the field rep said, that’s all it was. But in reality, the device was not just a modem. It was a modem and router combined.

After the rep successfully installed the device and departed, I eventually looked at the back of their “modem” and found multiple ports, as a router would host. What it proved to me is that these Blighthouse reps barely know what they’re doing. That’s because this last installer got it half right and hadn’t completed his job. I had to figure out how to make the modem/router be just a modem by configuring it to bridge mode that would allow our Apple AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi router to manage our home network configuration.

The way I figured it out was that our Apple router had a 192.16.1.1 address (Windows network numerics) as the default router and I knew then that their replacement modem was operating as a router, too. That’s when I called Blighthouse yet again.

They configured the modem/router remotely to bridge mode and our home network began working as it had with our original two-year old NetGear modem that exhibited dropouts.

As for backstory, April Fool’s Friday 2016 was the second time they had dispatched a rep to install their “modem,” that same week. On the previous Wednesday, the rep didn’t even recognize the NetGear modem that Blighthouse recommended we buy and install (the modem that became suspect for our network dropouts). Then when I told him our router was on the lower shelf in the stand right in front of him, he picked up the Synology NAS box on the middle shelf, as he thought that was our router. I corrected him multiple times.

Then once the Wednesday guy got their replacement modem installed, our router complained with an error about not being configured correctly. The guy had no idea what to do. That’s when I told him to pack it up and get out.

Then that Friday with the final field support rep, the same Apple router error occurred. However, this time, after a few minutes, the router somehow adjusted itself and the error message went away. After getting the Apple router working, he should have known to configure their new modem/router to be in bridge mode, just as I had finally figured out by calling their phone support rep to fix.

I also suggested we inform the Wednesday rep how he had installed it correctly but hadn’t waited. But this successful rep told me he was a contractor and not a Blighthouse employee, although they sent him to us as a “field supervisor.” He also said without me having a receipt, which I did not have, he couldn’t identify who the rep was on Wednesday, and added that the Blighthouse employees don’t know what they’re doing beyond a simple home installation.

My biggest issue is the longevity quality with these modems, in general. I decided to rent a Blighthouse modem because this purchased NetGear modem was only two-years old, out of warranty, and I don’t want to have to buy a new modem every two years. I’ve learned network gear is low-quality after any length of time. That too applies to the Apple router we had to replace weeks before the new modem, without any clue why it died. Apple can’t even determine why their router failed but instead expect people to replace it with a new or refurbished one.

As you can imagine, each time I called Blighthouse to report the dropouts while we slowly isolated the problem finally down to the modem, I’ve had to walk each phone support rep through all of the steps we’d done up to each point in time, even though it was documented on our account. It appears they can’t read or write, or both. When they failed to understand the issue and “robot-repeated” their corporate customer script, I escalated to a supervisor. That’s when it was a pleasure to find someone who actually understood the problem and we were able to make progress.

One final note that I don’t know if it’s published anywhere is that they can put a “device watch” diagnostic utility on the modem to monitor and record the signal to the house. However, once you do that, you have to find someone in their Internet customer support group to do anything with the logs. If you call the regular support group, they go brain-dead and have no idea what device watch is or who to transfer the call to for them to take any action.

Fixing this simple problem has had to have cost them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars simply because of ignorance and lack of followup training.

In the final minutes after installing the replacement modem, my ignorance was about where the DDNS is configured for our network. For some reason, I go brain-dead when it comes to the outside access and which part of the network gear does the addressing, internally and externally. After all these final installation issues, I now will remember it’s the router, silly.

The day I originally published this post is the day after the final modem installation, and it’s only for testing to confirm the NetGear modem wasn’t causing the dropouts. So far, none.

NOTES

EOP stands for Ethernet Over Power. This technology is a standardized product of HomePlug Alliance where my long-term close friend, Rob Ranck, is CEO.

POE stands for Power Over Ethernet. This technology is a product of IEEE standards defining the use of DC power on a Category 5 (aka CAT-5) cable with RJ45 connectors. This has become the standard method of providing power to network-ready devices, like IP surveillance video cameras.

EOP/POE is the combination of both standard features in a single device. A EOP/POE adapter product (COP-Systems offers this product on eBay) replaces two adapters to accomplish both features, having only one standardardized feature per unit.

Android Tablets are ViewPix Frame prototypes running a picture slideshow. These Frames are designed for the senior market where families wish to contact elderly parents with video calls.

The reason for mentioning the front-facing camera, in the intro above, is to include this note about my installing an IP surveillance camera app on the Android Frame. I prototyped this feature by configuring an IP WebCam app to demonstrate its ability to be added to IP camera surveillance software that records this Frame’s video camera stream. In this configuration, Digital Watchdog Spectrum server software manages the Frame IP camera and records its video stream. This is illustrated in the floor plan at the link below, near the middle of the page.

Orlando Configuration Floor Plan 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s