The first two parts of this article were about getting new Internet service from TDS Telecom in my new home near St. George, Utah. It took a few days for a technician to come and install 50 feet of coaxial cable from the utility pedestal on the corner of my property to the house and then install and provision the cable modem. In about an hour and a half, I had internet. However, the technician was unable to use the pre-buried conduit for the outside cable run, so he had to run the coaxial cable through the ground to the house and leave the cable burial to a better-equipped contractor, who showed up a few days later. . . The contractor cleaned the conduit with a Craftsman wet/dry vacuum and then ran the existing coaxial cable through the conduit, all while I was showering. Six days later, after the initial installation of the cable modem on Friday, I switched the cable modem’s power cord from the wall to a surge protected power strip and the modem failed to reboot. A technician from TDS Telecom came out the next day and replaced the modem with some effort. I got internet service back.
I am paying $39.95 per month to TDS Telecom for 300 Mbps Internet service plus $10 per month for the modem. After going through three cable modems in a week, I reckon the $10 per month modem fee is more of an insurance policy. If I connect my laptop directly to the cable modem, I get a download speed of 330 Mbps. That’s a ten percent bonus! However, over WiFi, I get only half or a sixth of that bandwidth depending on the time of day and the phase of the moon. So, abandoning the engineering dictum “If it works, leave it alone,” I decided to see if using a powerline modem to get from the cable modem to the studio where I work would improve the performance of my home Internet service.
Based on a YouTube video review, I decided to try a TP-Link AV2000 Passthrough Powerline Network Extender, which claims to be able to drive bits through my home wiring at 1Gbps, each way. Impressive, if true, and much more than I need. Using these powerline modems is quite simple. Plug a powerline modem into a power outlet near your gateway or router. Plug the other powerline modem into a power outlet near your computer. Pair the powerline modems by pressing the “Pair” button on each modem and then wait. If everything works as it should, the two powerline modems quickly find each other and create a virtual Ethernet cable through your house wiring. Each one lights up a small green LED to indicate successful pairing. No setup. No SSID or passwords. There is no website to find out. Just a couple of buttons to press. slippery
I ordered a pair of these powerline modems from Amazon for $90 with 2 day delivery. While waiting for the powerline modems to arrive, I drove to the local Harbor Freight store in Washington City and bought a Circuit Detective for around $21. This tool allows you to sniff out the connections between an outlet and the circuit breaker box. I needed to do that because power line modems work best when the modems are plugged into outlets that are on the same stretch of the 220 volt line. (This is a North American thing.) I couldn’t tell from the label on the breaker panel which outlets were on each side of the incoming 220 volt line.
After returning home, I took the Circuit Detective out of the package and discovered that it requires a 9-volt battery. Having none in stock, I pulled one from a “free” Harbor Freight DMM I salvaged from a box of similar gauges. Over time I have collected quite a few of these DMMs when Harbor Freight used to give them away. Now they cost five or six dollars. They’re fine for measuring continuity and low DC voltages, but don’t insert their probes into lethal voltages. If you do, you’ll probably be fine. Probably. Definitely don’t pay six bucks for one. Splurge and spend $20 or $30 on a better DMM.
The circuit detective told me that the outlets in the cable modem room were not on the same 220-volt branch as the outlets in the den, which meant the TP-Link powerline modem was less likely to work. A little research online indicated that some powerline modems will work with outlets on different legs of the 220-volt circuit. It depends on outlet locations and “other factors,” so I waited for the powerline modem to arrive before doing the experiment. At least the circuit detective told me where he was standing.
My first attempt with powerline modems failed. The TP-Link powerline modem in the server room found the one in the studio and paired with it at first, but the connection broke a few minutes later. However, moving the powerline modem in the server room about 10 feet to another outlet in the same room caused the two powerline modems to pair up and maintain the connection. As my research indicated, success depends on many factors, and if one way out doesn’t work, try the next.
At this point, I connected my Arris cable modem to a TP-Link powerline modem using an Ethernet cable and connected my laptop to the powerline modem in the studio with another Ethernet cable. I had successfully established a virtual Ethernet connection through the house’s wiring system from the cable modem to the PC. What remained was to test the connection with an Internet speed test.
The results were good and disappointing. They were good because I made the speed test work. However, testing showed I wasn’t getting any more bandwidth out of the powerline modem than I was getting over 5GHz WiFi. I can’t tell from the results if this is the fault of the cable modem, modem failure power line or my fault, but the conclusion is the same. Based on the results of these tests, the powerline modem returned to Amazon. I might eventually try a mesh router system for my house, but for now WiFi will work.