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What to do about "too much power" coming through a modem connection

Answered January 15, 2012

Dirty power (mp3)

A listener sent this question in to

"Please explain what my father is supposed to do now if the internet provider he is with has made multiple service calls to the house and has told him that he has 'too much power coming through the line.' This is the reason they came up with why his internet connection keeps getting dropped. The provider has not given him any further solutions to remedy the problem, and we don't know what this means to correct it on our end."

First of all, it sounds like you need to be more assertive with your Internet service provider. I don't necessarily know what that diagnosis means, either, and it's their job to tell you what, if anything, can be done about it. Almost nobody anymore is limited to just one available Internet service provider, so you should never be afraid to tell them to either help you find a solution or expect you to cancel your service.

Now, it may be possible that what they meant wasn't that the cable or DSL line coming into the home was over-powered, but rather that you have what we sometimes call "dirty" power at your home. That is to say that due to some other condition -- like old power lines or inconsistent generation at the power plant, or interference from a nearby user of electricity, like a welding shop or a factory or a grain dryer at an elevator -- is causing the electricity coming into the house to be inconsistent or irregular in some way. Lots of little things can set off the sensitive electronics inside your modem.

If that's what they mean by "too much power coming down the line", then you can get an uninterruptible power supply and use it to feed your computer, modem, and router (if you have one). An uninterruptible power supply acts a little like a battery and a little like a flywheel -- it captures electricity and stores it in case you lose power, and it also can help smooth out some of the spikes and variances in your electrical supply.

But before you go out and drop $100 or more on a power supply just on a hunch, go back to your current Internet service provider and ask them to clarify what they mean and what they suggest to fix your problem. Most people now have a range of choices for high-speed Internet access that includes cable, DSL, satellite, and cellular access, and in some places, even microwave access, too. In other words, they need to prove that they really do value your business enough to help you solve your problem. If they don't, you have other choices, and you shouldn't be afraid to use them.