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Linksys RV016 and Motorola SurfBoard 5102 modem = sad network

A couple of weeks ago I added a second network service provider to my home. The idea was to improve my home office internet access speed and provide redundancy. My thinking is that it is unlikely that both a cable broadband service from Shaw and ADSL service from Telus would both be down at the same time. Things, unfortunately, haven’t worked out quite as planned…

My first problem was that my Linksys RV016 router/switch seems to have some problems doing the one really unique thing I bought it for: handling load balancing between two networks. I thought I had temporarily bypassed that problem by disconnecting my ADSL modem (temporarily: I’ve ordered another router) and running just on the faster Shaw connection. But as the last week has passed, I’ve noticed my network (download or “downstream” as the telcos like to say” has been abysmal, dropping below 500 Kbps.

My first thought was to blame Shaw: my past experience with cable broadband has been that they deliver very unpredictable bandwidth. But I spent a very fruitful hour or so online with a senior Shaw technician who amazed me by not only being knowledgeable, but genuinely helpful and polite. He quickly figured out that I am something of an uber geek, and pretty soon we were having a bunch of fun trying things out. He reset some things, and my network speed jumped back up to over 9 Mbps… at least with my Macintosh directly attached to the cable modem.

I reconnected my network router and, for a brief while, seemed to have decent speeds through it as well. But within a couple of hours I was once again observing speeds down in the 200-500 Kbps range. I connected my Mac directly to the modem again, reset everything, and was getting 8-9 Mbps: apparently, my Linksys RV016 router was causing a problem.

I called my favorite computer parts supplier to see how long it was going to be before my new router arrived, and received the bad news: no confirmed ETA. Darn it: living with sub-500 Kbps download speeds is tough here at my house. I decided to take another stab at resolving the problem again tonight.

  • I upgraded the firmware on the Linksys RV016 from 2.0.17 to 2.0.18: this did nothing for my bandwidth
  • I reset the RV016 to factory defaults: likewise, no improvement
  • I tried plugging the modem into another WAN port on the RV016: still no change
  • Finally, I decided to do something stupid. The Motorola Surfboard 5102 modem supports 100 Mbps full duplex connectivity on the LAN side- that was what the RV016 had autonegotiated, what my Mac autonegotiated, and what I had read on-line. I had already tried disabling autonegotiation and forcing 100 Mbps/full duplex, which helps when autonegotiation fails. That didn’t work.. but what the the heck: lets try 10 Mbps full duplex… nope. How about 10 Mbps half duplex…

Son of a … suddenly, I am getting 8 Mbps. So apparently the RV016 and the Surboard 5102 can’t talk to each other “normally”. I don’t know which to blame, the modem or the router, but given my problems with the RV016 so far, I’m going to bet that that is where the fault lies

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