Category: ISP (Page 1 of 2)

New Broadband Labeling Requirements

If you are shopping for internet service, you should know about the new broadband labeling requirements. The FCC now requires ISPs to clearly state speeds, pricing and other critical details about their services. These new Broadband Consumer Labels look like the FDA’s nutrition labels. Overall, the government is trying to make ISPs present their offerings in a standard and less confusing way.


Here’s an example of what you will find, when you go shopping at Xfinity’s website:

New Broadband Labeling Requirements

When I visited the Glofiber page, their internet offerings were super-clear with these labels:

Despite this being a strict federal requirement, some ISPs are going to play with the format, to see what they can get away with. I went shopping for Verizon Fios, and didn’t see these labels. They gave me the same old Plan Summaries and encouraged me to choose one. But below these choices was a small, plain link that said “Jump to broadband facts labels” and those revealed the clearer details:

If you cannot locate these Broadband Nutrition labels on an ISP’s website, please know that:

  • This is a very new requirement, and perhaps they are still getting their website updated with this info.
  • Small ISPs (with fewer than 100,000 subscribers) have until October to comply.
  • The FCC would like for you to let them know, if an ISP is not posting these labels, or if they are being inaccurate with their pricing or other stated details. You may report such deceptive business practices at this site.

Importance of Broadband Labels

These labels are meant to help you avoid unpleasant surprises on your internet bill. So many people sign up with an ISP due to a low monthly price, only to find out a year later that they were enjoying a promotional discount. When the real price kicks in, those customers feel duped or taken advantage of. The FCC would like to help you know, from these labels, when you are paying a reliable price or a temporary one.

Besides clearing the air over pricing, these labels may help you understand your internet speed. It is so important to know what speed you should be getting in your home! Let me digress with this scenario:

I frequently help clients in speeding up their tech and figuring out why things are slow. And in the course of this detective work, I have to ask them: What speed of internet are you paying for? Many people do not know the answer to this, so we look at their internet bill. If we can’t find the speed on the bill, we visit the ISP’s website. And even then, we may not find any speed numbers. How in the world are we to know if their internet is operating correctly, if we can’t determine what speed they should be seeing?

These labels will clear up that kind of mess. Customers will be able to run a simple speed test, compare it against their broadband label, and reach out to the ISP over any discrepancy. Not that I don’t enjoy the detective work, but this will save everyone so much time!

Mobile Broadband

When shopping for internet service, you may have plenty of options: Cable, Fiber, Fixed Wireless, Satellite, DSL. But one oft-overlooked option needs to be included: Mobile Broadband. This home internet service is powered over the airwaves and through the same towers as your cellular phones. Consider these options from the big cellular companies:

T-Mobile Home Internet

AT&T Internet Air

Verizon Home Internet

If you have terrestrial options for internet service, you may want to stick with them. But the new residential mobile broadband service can be a moneysaver/lifesaver for people in rural, underserved areas. If you are suffering under super-slow DSL, or flaky satellite internet service, or high-priced Starlink, the above options are worth considering!

But mobile broadband is not available everywhere. The first step for anyone considering this type of internet is to talk with the provider. Visit a T-MO, ATT or VZ store and have them check your address. They’ll let you know if your residence is serviceable.

When someone signs up for mobile broadband service, the provider sends a Wi-Fi modem, as shown above. The user plugs it in, uses an app to setup the household Wi-Fi, and then starts connecting the household computers and devices. It’s usually pretty streamlined and easy. And their Wi-Fi modem serves as a regular router, allowing you to connect multiple computers, streaming devices, printers, etc..

These home internet options are not as blazing fast as cable or fiber, but they should be significantly better than DSL. If you investigate this type of internet, make sure to ask the provider what type of speeds they think you’ll get in your area. They can vary wildly from one region to the next.

Starlink Satellite Train

starlink satellite train

Alright, folks: if you ever get to see this in your night sky, relax and enjoy the spectacle. This is not War of the Worlds or Independence Day or HHGTTH. It’s a Starlink Satellite Train!

Starlink is the world’s premier satellite internet service provider. And as they expand and improve service, they launch new satellites, in long strings, as shown above. Some people around the globe have been lucky enough to see these as they fly into the stratosphere and enter into service.

You might be surprised to see how many Starlink satellites we have orbiting the Earth. If you’re interested in trying to spot the next Starlink Satellite Train, you can check out this site to figure out when the next launch may be visible in the night sky. This article and this site also has information about past and future launches.

Dish Network Scam – “Receiver Updates”

dish receiver - it can typically update itself

Dish Network subscribers are starting to get unexpected calls about receiver updates. These are yet another scam, similar to the Xfinity Discount scam. Here’s what you need to know before you get one of these calls:

How The Scam Works

A scammer calls and identifies himself as a Dish Network representative. They’ll claim that the Dish receivers in the house urgently need a software update. “We can send a technician to your home to do this upgrade for $300, or I can walk you through it over the phone for only $199.”

At this point, the victim may object, and the scammer is ready: “But sir, it is just a one-time payment of $199.99. Without this, your TV will soon stop working!” When the victim argues further, the crook may offer to offset their fee by promising $25 discounts for several months on future Dish bills. If the victim still does not cooperate with payment, the scammer may become rude, and claim that he will just shut down the entire satellite service.

It should go without saying: If the crook gets any kind of payment over the phone, they will disappear with the money, and the victim gets… nothing. The “upgrade” was a dog-and-pony show and nothing more.

Why This Scam Is Convincing

This scam has a lot going for it, and has the potential to dupe a lot of people.

  • The scammer on the phone already knows your name, address and (obviously) your phone number.
  • Your CallerID may be spoofed to show “Dish Networks”.
  • They will instruct the victim to press buttons and navigate menus on the Dish receiver/TV with a convincing level of accuracy.
  • If the scammer learns your Dish account PIN, s/he may make changes to your account or add discounts to your billing, to “prove” they are a capable Dish rep.

Do’s & Don’ts

  • If you find yourself on this kind of call, hang up ASAP. The less you say to the scammer, the better.
  • Never antagonize or berate the caller. Remember: They have your address. These crooks can get hostile and the worst-case scenario could result in you getting swatted.
  • Don’t volunteer any extra info, especially your Dish account number or PIN. True Dish representatives never ask for this info over the phone.
  • To verify any Dish Networks communications, or to report a fraudulent call, call their main number at 1-800-333-DISH or chat them up on their website.


This scam is no longer just affecting Dish customers, but also subscribers of Xfinity, DirecTV and other big TV companies.

Xfinity Scam – “50% Discount”

There’s a scam going around right now, promising a 50% discount on your Comcast/Xfinity bill. You might see this scam in your email, Facebook feed or even get a phone call! In any case, please know that it is not a legitimate offer.

It is too good to be true. Anyone duped into calling the offered number will reach a scammer, not an Xfinity rep. And the crook will press you to pay some advance money to qualify for the fictional discount. Once you send them any kind of payment, they’ll disappear.

Xfinity doesn’t offer any deep discounts like this, but you are always welcome to reach out to them to verify other offers you might hear about. You can report this scam to them when you receive it, if you like, but rest assured they already know all about it.


This scam is no longer just affecting Xfinity customers, but also subscribers of Dish, DirecTV and other big TV companies.

Coping with a Dysfunctional ISP

I field a lot of service calls and requests for advice that center around a person’s ISP. Internet Service Providers are essential to most households, and yet, many of us have a dysfunctional relationship with our ISPs. I’m sorry to say that it may always be complicated to deal with them. Instead of going on a rant (I’ve rewritten this post a dozen times now), let me organize some tools and advice and Too Many Words™ that may help you cope with your ISP.

Most ISPs Are Tricksy

Well, the smaller, hometown ISPs may be straightforward and easy to deal with. But the big companies? Once they go corporate and expand across the country, something changes. Please read over this Washington Post article about ISPs across the country. It goes over a lot of their pricing tactics and other questionable practices. It’s not just your ISP that plays games.

Not only are they tricksy, but they frequently upsell to their customers. Many customers don’t know much about internet speed needs, and are led to pay for a premium product they don’t need. Your ISP is not your friend. You might want to get advice from other sources on what internet you should choose. More food for thought on this here.

Pricing Games

Right now, ISPs often make it hard for you to make an informed decision on your internet speed/price. Their website may be hard to use, or may employ dark patterns to hide the lowest prices. Their sales reps may steer you to choose a pricey package, and they may outright lie to you. How can you protect yourself and your wallet?

In general, you want to do research as best you can, before you talk to the ISP. Pore over the ISP’s website for pricing info. If that doesn’t work, perhaps compare bills with your neighbors or other people using the same service. And while you’re at it, you may want to take notes on competing services in your area.

With some basic info already on hand, you can query your ISP: What are my internet options? What are the prices? If the answers are confusing or if they change the subject, you’ll have to be persistent. And you may have to ask them to simply Put It In Writing. ISPs should be able to email or postal mail you a rate card or Pricing List, when requested.

Be wary of promotional pricing. Ask what the price will be, once the intro-price has expired. If they won’t reveal that, think twice about accepting. Tell them you can’t balance a household budget on unknown prices, and that you can’t agree to a contract where you don’t know the money figures therein. Most ISPs offer no-term plans with dependable monthly rates, but they may not offer them to you at first.

Promo rates aside, ask about any other discounts that are available. You could save money if you also buy their TV service, or their landline phone service. You could knock a few more dollars off by agreeing to automatic billing each month. Going paperless might save you a bit more.

If there’s any good news about ISP prices, it’s that our government is slowly bringing improvement to the table. ISP “Nutrition Labels” will soon be mandated, and those will cut down on the confusion with your internet service.

Bad at Communication

These ISPs are often bad at communication. Which is kind of ironic, since they’re communications companies. But once you know this, you can accept it, and you can pick up the slack. It’s on you to be the superior communicator in this relationship.

This means: You have to ask the questions. It’s your responsibility to check in and ask: Am I getting the best price on my internet service? Have you changed your prices lately? Are there any new discounts?

These answers may or may not be on their website. But you might take it upon yourself to check in with your ISP once a year. Pose these questions to them. Let them know that you’re not interested in any additional service, but that you just want to make sure you didn’t miss the boat on anything.

Your ISP should confirm what speed of internet you’re signed up for. Trust, but verify. It costs you nothing to run a speed test once in a while. And it may help you catch any discrepancies or mistakes. Also go over your bill and check your charges. ISPs make billing errors all the time, but they will only correct them if you catch them!

My ISP Has a Monopoly in My Region! Don’t They?

Sometimes, this is the case, but don’t be too quick to believe that. If you desire a change of ISP, do some research to make sure you aren’t ignoring quality companies in your region. To figure out what ISPs service your region:

Check out the National Broadband Map website. It can give you some idea of the big ISPs that service your address. It is by no means complete or accurate, though, so this is merely a starting point. Smaller ISPs are probably not going to show here. And there are a lot of quality Wireless companies out there!

You can do a quick search on WISPA for Wireless Internet Service Providers in your region. But again, that is another incomplete tool. It will give you some leads, but not all WISPs are in their database.

There’s a wealth of information to be found, when you talk to people in your community. Ask around on your region’s Facebook groups, or join up with Nextdoor. See if any of the locals have good things to say about a hometown provider just up the road.

With a little bit of research and legwork, you may find that “monopoly” doesn’t quite exist!

Irreconcilable Differences

Despite the best efforts, not all problems can be worked out. Some ISPs will do things that seem downright criminal, and getting them to make it right is not in the cards. If you feel you’ve exhausted all of your good options, then it’s time to see if the government can help you.

This article at BroadbandNow discusses how you can file a complaint about your ISP. It details the methods of reaching out to both the FCC and the FTC with your issues. Do read their advice and other minutiae carefully, as your situation may be appropriate to report to one agency but not another.

Your state or county government may also want to hear from you. You can find your locality’s Consumer Protection Office through this government site. You should consider using this tool in the case of any kind of fraudulent dealings.

Reuse Your SSID and Wi-Fi Password

Reuse Your SSID and Wi-Fi Password

When you get a new router, I recommend you reuse the exact same SSID (network name) and Wi-Fi password as you did in your old equipment. Now, this may sound like a no-brainer to many of you, but please hear me out and let me qualify this advice.

Not everyone is savvy with setting up their Wi-Fi equipment, and I see where people allow their ISP to do it for them. But if you receive a change of equipment, the ISP’s installer may do a fast job of it. S/he’ll slap that new box into place, write down a generic/default network name and password and get out the door quick like a bunny. I understand why they do this. Many of these techs are contractors, paid by the job, not by the hour.

Wi-Fi Disruption

When technicians take these shortcuts, it causes disruption with all of your household Wi-Fi devices. For example, let’s say that everything in your house was set to connect to:

SSID ILoveMyWiFi, using the password funkybeans135

But the newly setup router is now emitting:

SSID Arris-L33T_5G, using the password of JohnDoe540

None of your household tech knows these new credentials! Now you have some serious homework to do! You’ll have to touch on every device in the house and enter in those new credentials. Reintroducing all of your tech to the new Wi-Fi can be a lot of work, if you have a printer, a thermostat, a tablet, a smartTV, a video game console, and on and on….

It’s much easier if you stick with the same old network name and Wi-Fi password. You can ask your installer or technician for this! If the new equipment is programmed with the same old SSID (ILoveMyWiFi or whatever your old network name was) and original password (funkybeans135), all of your devices will likely reconnect to your Wi-Fi automagically. The installer will quit the building and everything will be working just as it was before they came.

Important Details

  • Tell your installer that you want to reuse your SSID and Wi-Fi password at the beginning of the appointment, while the old equipment is still in place. Once they decommission the old router, it may become harder for them to determine your network name and password. Unless you have this written down ahead of time for them!
  • Network names and passwords must be kept exactly the same. These things are case-sensitive and even one different character will cause problems. MuellerWireless is different than Mueller Wireless is different from muellerwireless. Devices that connected to one of those will not connect automagically to the others.
  • It is possible to reuse your SSID and password when one piece of equipment replaces two. For example, let’s say you have a Comtrend DSL modem connected to a Netgear wireless router. Your ISP arrives and sets up a combo wireless modem that supplants both of your old boxes. You can ask the tech to program the new all-in-one box with NETGEAR35 and its password zestynoodle123. It doesn’t matter that the modem is a different brand; it can still broadcast a Netgear-style name.
  • It is possible that this tactic won’t work for you, if your existing router is extremely old. A 10-year-old Linksys router may be using an older type of Wi-Fi security (WEP) that doesn’t translate well to the new equipment’s security (WPA2). But most routers made in the last five years should work well with SSID and password reuse.

Think Twice About T-Mobile Home Internet

A year and a half ago, I recommended T-Mobile Home Internet Service to everyone. Regrettably, I have to rescind that recommendation. Think twice before signing up with this outfit.

TMHIS is turning out to be unreliable. Subscribers are enjoying great internet with T-MO, until their modem just stops, with an unhelpful error: “All PDN IP Connection Failure.” I’m hearing about this from folks local to me, and people further abroad.

Toms’ Hardware is a solid tech news site that has been reporting on this in detail. I recommend you check out this article and its follow-up on TMHIS troubles. But in short, it appears that T-Mobile is unable to fix these problems, unwilling to admit to it, and lying to its customers just to get them off the phone. They are not helping their affected customers; they are just hanging them out to dry.

While this is nothing new in corporate America (I once worked for a large healthcare company that engaged in these same practices), it hurts me to think that I’ve guided some of you to use TMHIS. For this, I can only apologize. I regret if T-MO has let you down. If you need recommendations for another ISP to switch to, reach out and I’ll do what I can.

ISP Data Collection

I hear from many people who are grumpy about all the personal information that Google and Microsoft are collecting. And I won’t deny that those companies are making money off of your web searches and use of their software. But I want to challenge you to think in a different direction. Did you know that your ISP is doing the same thing?

The company selling you your internet connection (Shentel, Xfinity, Verizon, Spectrum and more) collects data about you. Everything you do over their internet connection is fair game. And while they are sworn to protect your privacy, they are also allowed to use their collected data to advertise to you, or sell your data to 3rd-party companies.

The FCC made an attempt to limit this practice in 2017, but did not succeed. The FTC has been studying ISP Data Collection Practices, but it remains to be seen what good will come of their reports.

So what can you do about this? I don’t have a perfect answer or silver bullet for you, but here are some ideas:

Contact your ISP and use any tool they offer to opt-out of their data collection practices. While the law allows them to hoover up your data and make money off of it, they are also legally obligated to give you a way to opt-out!

You could use a VPN. Or Private Browsing mode. Or the Tor browser. But none of those are great solutions, and I don’t recommend them. ISPs may still gather info about you, despite your use of these tools, and they’ll cost you money or time as you try them. The root of the problem (the law) is not addressed by these tactics.

Communicate with your state legislators, and ask them to promote laws that deal with this issue. Some states have legislation in the works that may clamp down on ISP Data Collection. Let your government know how you feel about your personal information and what ISPs are allowed to do with it!

ISP Equipment: Rent Vs. Own

If your ISP requires you to have a modem, then you may have an important choice to make. It’s worth thinking about!

Some people rent or buy their equipment (modem, WiFi router or combo device) from the ISP. Others go out to a store to buy something they like. There are pros and cons to each of these. You should choose, based on two topics: your tech-ability and what your ISP allows.

ISP Allowances

Every ISP has different rules about their internet equipment, so you may have many options, or be very restricted. You’ll want to call them or check their website for their rules. They may have a list of specific modems that are allowed or prohibited for use with their service. They may offer to sell you a modem, or tell you that they only rent their modems, for a monthly fee.

You’ll want to study the associated prices, to make an informed decision. Ask about the rental prices vs. the purchase price for a modem, and you may find that one way saves you money over another. The Amazon price of a modem could be half of what the ISP charges for the same model.

Computer Skill Level

Are you skilled with technology? Can you fix your own computer problems? When your internet goes out, how comfortable are you at troubleshooting your own problems? Do you have someone in your household that takes care of that for you?

If you don’t have a comfort level for fixing computer problems, or if you don’t have tech-help close at hand, then you should strongly consider using the modem that your ISP provides. If they won’t sell it to you, then consider renting it. Using the ISP-provided equipment will make it easier for them to resolve your future internet issues. Consider this scenario:

Becky gets her internet service from Metamucil Fiber LLC, and she had the choice of renting her modem for $13/mo. But she’s thrifty and she went to buy her Piyala-brand modem from the local Malwart for $100. She patted herself on the back, because in less than a year, she was saving money by not renting her equipment.

But one day her internet goes out, and she doesn’t know what to do. She calls Metamucil, and they refuse to help her much. Why? Because she’s not using their modem, and they only train their reps on how to fix their equipment. They tell her to call Piyala for tech support.

She calls Piyala, and they aren’t much help, either. Why? Because they aren’t familiar with Metamucil Fiber. They ask Becky questions like Is their DSL PPPoE? and What’s their DNS server names? Piyala needs more info from Becky before they can do much. She doesn’t know what to tell them and feels overwhelmed.

In this scenario, Becky can struggle, going back and forth between two helplines, but the struggle is real. As in: really aggravating. She can also call in a professional tech, like yours truly, but that can result in a significant bill that may wipe out what money she saved by buying her Piyala modem. In the end, Becky may come to regret buying her modem from Malwart. If she had rented and paid the ISP’s monthly fee, then Metamucil wouldn’t’ve passed her off so quickly. They would’ve had to support her 100% with her problem!

The TLDR Point

I apologize for so many words, but the end point is this: If you can’t fix your own tech, then you should get your ISP modem from your ISP. This puts the ISP “on the hook” for supporting you in times of trouble. If you buy someone else’s modem, then the ISP might refuse to help you later on.

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