wifi

What’s Up With My WiFi?

Every day I speak with TDS customers from around the country who have questions about how their Internet service works. In the last decade the Internet has undergone transformative changes, both in the way service is delivered to customers and the way customers utilize their Internet connection. Nowadays, when you look around your home it is nearly impossible not to see dozens if not more wirelessly connected devices. Your smart phone, your gaming system, your Netflix set-top box, all of these are examples of technologies which utilize wireless Internet connections to deliver a variety of services to our customers. In the course of supporting those customers who make use of our wireless modems and routers, I have come across a number of common problems that people face, both in connecting to their network and in using it to its fullest capacity.

Our mission today, should you choose to join us, is to explain some common misconceptions regarding wireless technology and arm you with some of the tools you can use to combat them.

What Is WiFi?

Before we get into specific problems, it is worth taking a few moments to better understand what WiFi is and how it works.

WiFi is a data delivery system that utilizes an antenna capable of broadcasting a signal on the 802.11 protocol. The Internet connection is delivered to your home either by traditional copper telephone lines or high-speed fiber optic cable, where it is then converted into a radio signal that can be received by wireless-enabled devices.

TDS utilizes two different types of wireless delivery systems to accomplish this. The first of these is a combination DSL Modem/Router.
actiontec

TDS DSL customers are typically issued an Actiontec GT724-WG or GT784-WN model, both of which serve to convert the signal that travels across the phone line into data that can then be transmitted to the customer by way of wireless. Without this piece of equipment, internet connection cannot be established for DSL customers.

Our fiber optic customers are ordinarily issued an Actiontec V1000H router.

Unlike the DSL modem/router combination, this device simply transmits an already converted data stream into a wireless transmission. Even without the router, customers with fiber-optic service can connect to the internet with an Ethernet cable.

That’s a whole lot of technical gobbledegook, right? In layman’s terms what this all means is that your Internet service comes into your house via a hard-line connection of some sort and is converted into a WiFi signal by your modem or router. If you’re having problems with your WiFi, thats always the first place to start.

Making WiFi Work For You

Now that we have a very basic understanding of the concepts and hardware, let’s look at some of three of the top problems people face when it comes to WiFi and how to combat them.

3. Sinking Signal Strength

WiFi is a tricky technology, and there are a multitude of factors that can cause you to receive a lower signal strength than what you’re used to. In many cases, this is nothing more than the modem or router having aged to the point where its ability to broadcast has decreased. This isn’t unusual, and is something to be expected of any piece of electronics that is left turned on for days and weeks on end. The estimated life span for one of our devices is between three and five years.

In many cases, however, the issue is not resolved by simply replacing the hardware. Outside of simply getting old, the most common culprits when it comes to low signal strength are obstructions, or objects situated between the transmitter and device you’re trying to use. Like an radio signal, WiFi is vulnerable to being blocked by common household objects. This includes anything from the obvious things such as ventilation shafts in the walls to fish tanks and even certain ceramics.

When situating your wireless router, remember to consider what communications professionals call “line-of-sight”, or LOS for short. Imagine drawing a line from your router to the device you are attempting to use and ask yourself whether that line passes through anything that which might interfere with the signal. If the answer is yes, then you may have found the source of your problem. And please, please do not site the router inside a large metal box or in the deepest recesses of your entertainment center. Yes, this happens.

UPDATE: For tips for optimizing your Wi-Fi signal, check out this blog.

2. The Curse of Competing Channels

If you’ve eliminated location or blockages as the source of your WiFi woes and you’re still seeing poorer service than you expect, it may be time to dig a little deeper.

When you look at your computer or smart phone and pull up a list of available wireless networks, you will most likely see quite a few. Unless they are in a rural or otherwise isolated area, the average home will receive signals from at least four different wireless networks. The more networks you see on that list, the more “noise” there is for your router to cut through. What’s more, there are any number of items that are common in many homes that are using that same the 802.11 protocol to communicate. Cordless phones, some remote controlled cars, and even microwave ovens all use this little slice of spectrum to talk to each other.

When trying to cut through that noise, the first thing you’ll want to do is get the lay of the land. This will require a little work, but most of what you need can be found by downloading freeware tools such as WireShark that will provide you with a list of all the 802.11 protocol signals within range, their relative signal strength in decibels (dB) and which of the eleven available channels they are using. Some routers will do this automatically whenever they are powered down and powered back up, but others will not.

Once you know where the existing noise is coming from, there is a quick and easy process for changing to a channel of your choosing. Just connect to your router with an ethernet cable and go through the following steps:

Change Wireless Channel
1. Open a web browser (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, etc).
2. Enter http://192.168.1.1 or http://192.168.0.1 into your address bar. (Or click either link)
3. The Gateway may ask for a password. If it does use the following. (admin/password)
4. Click Wireless Setup on the top.
5. From the menu on the left click Basic Settings.
6. In the drop down box under Channel select the desired channel. (Channels 1,3,9,11)

There, wasn’t that easy? Obviously this process will vary slightly depending on the model of modem/router you may have in your home, but this will give you an idea of where to start exploring.

1. The Dreaded Password Paradox

Let’s all admit one thing: passwords are the bane of our existence. Whether a technical support professional or an average customer, everyone has more passwords than they care to count. There’s the password for your bank, your power company, your beloved internet service provider and, most of all there’s the password for the WiFi. Without that password, life can seem impossible. Your Kindle or iPhone is rendered useless and all seems lost. I’ve even spoken with parents who routinely withhold the wireless password as a way of encouraging lazy children to complete their chores.

Often times we will receive calls from customers who have either forgotten their wireless password or have had it mysteriously change on them. Now, sometimes this is the result of a little bit of amateur networking on the part of an enterprising youngster, and sometimes it’s something as simple as a power surge having hard reset the router.

In either case, there is always hope when it comes to wireless password.

Just like before, begin by connecting to your router with an ethernet cable, then follow the following steps:

Change Wireless Password
1. Open a web browser (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, etc).
2. Enter http://192.168.1.1 or http://192.168.0.1 into your address bar. (Or click either link)
3. The Gateway may ask for a password. If it does use the following. (admin/password)
4. Click Security on the top.
5. In the text box next to WPA Key/Key Passphrase you will see the password for your network.

Now, once you’ve found this box, you can continue to use the same password or you can change it to one that you can remember more easily. Also, if you have some dishes that need done, I’d suggest changing it and holding it hostage until you get what you want. You’d be surprised how quickly kids can move when their access to copious amounts of kitten pictures is cut off.

UPDATE: We have a new blog Where is my Wi-Fi Password and SSID for more help.

Knowing is Half the Battle

We’ve come to the end of our brief trip down WiFi Way.Hopefully you’ve learned a little bit about the technology you use in your home and feel at least a little better armed when it comes to fixing some of the problems that crop up. There will, of course, be issues that come along which were not covered here. When this happens, we always want to hear from you. Providing quality customer service is a top priority at TDS, and we’re always eager to answer questions from our customers.

If you want to get in touch with us, you can leave a comment below find us on Facebook, give us a shout on Twitter or, as always, contact TDS Customer Support at 1-866-571-6662.

Now go forth, wireless warriors!

 

About Guest Blogger

Guest blogger for TDS Home.

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20 Responses to What’s Up With My WiFi?

  1. Sanjay Singh Patwal July 22, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

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  2. Pam Strout October 9, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    I have WiFi that I use my laptop with. My modem looks like neither of those above and I’ve never been asked for a password. What am I missing here?

    • Josh Epstein October 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      Pam,

      It’s possible that you may not be using a modem issued by TDS, or that the modem you have one of the models mentioned but not shown.

      As far as the wireless password goes, once your computer has been configured to connect with a wireless network, it is not necessary to reenter the password unless the modem’s settings are changed.

      It is also possible that someone with access to the modem removed the password to make it easier to connect with. As discussed above, this is definitely not recommended. If you’d like to know whether wireless security IS enabled on your modem, I would advise following the steps provided to change the password and see if security is indeed turned on.

      If you have trouble with any of this, I would recommend contacting our support team at 866-571-6662.

      I hope this helps!

  3. Helmut Schwarzer October 9, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    If I am the only user on my PC, are the terms Administrator and my “User name” synonymous?

    • Josh Epstein October 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Not necessarily, as that sort of setup varies depending on the operating system your computer utilizes.

  4. Jeffrey pincourt October 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    Please give me some tips on gaming because when I play online the game lags

    • Josh Epstein October 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Jeffrey,

      The biggest thing when gaming online is understanding how much bandwidth is being used in your home. You may, for example, be subscribed to a 15Mbps connection, but are still experiencing slowness. I actually discussed this at length in another article which reviewed common causes of slow speeds.

      The other thing I would recommend is using a hard connection (ethernet) whenever possible while gaming. I tried playing NBA 2K13 online via my wireless connection on XBox, and would usually wind up standing in the middle of the lane like a statue while opposing guards just dribbled around me. When connected using ethernet, I dominate like the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain.

  5. Gary Irvine October 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    In your instructions above about changeing wireless password, when I get to step 4 and click on security it asks me for a user name and password which I don’t know. It does not show my password for my network.

    • Josh Epstein October 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

      Its possible that someone with access to the router set a password on it. It’s also possible that the router is using the default password.

      The first thing I would recommend trying is the standard default combinations:

      UN: admin
      PW: admin

      UN: (blank)
      PW: password

      If this doesn’t work, you can perform a hard reset of the modem (returning it to factory defaults) by holding down the recessed button marked “Reset” on the back of the modem for sixty seconds, powering down, and powering back up.

  6. Joyce Richardson October 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    I am paying for antivirus through RDS. How do I hook it up.

    • Joyce Richardson October 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

      Sorry TDS.

    • Josh Epstein October 11, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

      Joyce,

      Thanks for the question. This isn’t really something related to the wireless issues we’re discussing, but our support team can take you through the download & installation process with no trouble, any time you like. Just give us a call at 866-571-6662 and we should have your TDS Internet Security up and running in no time.

  7. Diane October 10, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    I have noticed, since I have WiFi, every time there is a storm in the area(not even severe)my internet connection is gone and I need to unplug my computer and reboot. I never had this problem before.

    • Josh Epstein October 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      Diane,

      While it is possible for electrical storms to affect wireless connections, there is likely something at play beyond WiFi.

      If you’re periodically losing connection, I would recommend contacting our support team at 866-571-6662 the next time you are without service and give myself or one of my colleagues a chance to take a look at the problem live.

  8. Courtney Parazoo January 4, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    My home wife will not work my phone says great interntet stretch and so does my kindle tablet… But the kindle has a little x aboave the bars for the signal. I have unpuged the router and also tried refreshing it such is not working? Any suggestions?

  9. Stephen March 3, 2014 at 11:26 pm #

    I have tried multiple times to troubleshoot my V100H with your tech support and have offered to do ANYTHING to fix my wireless problems. I will save the 2 page explanation but I have tried to call and troubleshoot this at least 5 times. Tonight again we went through all the steps with no resolution, I informed him I MUST FIX THIS or I cannot continue to be a customer. The representative gave me the phone number to Actiontech which I called and they said they do not support the router without a 3 way call from my ISP. So I called TDS back and he said we have done everything we can do, I again informed him I will need to switch ISP’s. His response was I quote “well we don’t make outbound calls, so would you like the phone number to our cancellation department”. I run my own business and am always polite when trying to trouble shoot things. But I could not believe the blatant lack of resolution. On a previous call I even said “do I need to just go spend $200 to fix this with a new router” and they said that I could but they won’t support it. So I am stuck between a rock and a hard place with limited options in my area. I hate to go back to comcast but their service at least worked.

  10. Helmut Schwarzer April 1, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    Dear Josh:
    I have an Actiontec GT724-WG providing Web access for my PC. My wife’s PC in the next room is connected to it via a 50 ft. long cable. We want to move her PC upstairs. Not only will the cable become too short – we also want to do away with its unsightliness altogether. Is it all just a matter of buying/installing a Network Interface card? If so, do I need a NIC for each PC? Or did my PC already have one installed when TDS set me up initially with my Actiontec?
    Thanks much for advising.

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