How I fixed my DSL modem connection, no thanks to ATT support

Warning: for those who are looking for my thoughts on poetry or cooking, this is one of my techie posts. Now and then, I become a complete nerd. My apologies! Look around my blog for other more interesting stuff, if you’re not looking for arcane information on internet connections or Apple products.

Disclaimer: ATT’s help desk might have been able to help me if I had given all the information. I didn’t realize they might need some of the information that follows, so I didn’t volunteer it, and ATT help dude did not ask the appropriate questions to resolve my issue without suggesting I send back the modem.

Note to ATT: Your hold notices that constantly tell me how I could easily troubleshoot my problem online really don’t put me in the best mood when my problem is that I can’t get online.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten those  mini-rants out of the way, here’s the deal…

Tonight our internet connection went down. I did the usual steps of restarting the modem, waiting awhile, restarting my computer and the modem, and then trying to connect directly to the modem from my computer with an ethernet cable. I even tried a second ethernet cable. But nothing worked. That’s when I thought there must be a serious problem, so I called ATT’s help desk, actually hoping they might be able to tell me if there was an internet problem in my area, but fearing there was a problem with the modem.

ATT’s helpdesk walked me through the usual troubleshooting steps, including resetting the modem, which should have resolved the problem, but didn’t. He had me hold the reset button for 5 seconds. The instructions just say “Press the reset button.” When my computer was getting the wrong IP address from the DNS server, I was told that the modem must be bad and would need to be replaced. Or he thought it might be my computer. He didn’t think to ask me the one question that would have resolved the issue, and if I had remembered to tell him, that could have made a better support experience, too. But it’s been awhile since I set up the modem, so I wasn’t thinking about this…

I run a Motorola 3360 DSL modem with an Apple Airport Express base station. To do this, I have the modem set up in Bridged Mode, so that the Airport Express can make the PPPoE connection (login to my DSL account). Why? Because my modem doesn’t assign DNS addresses to computers on my network: it only works with one computer or router, so I have to have the Airport give our computers, iPad, etc. their DNS addresses. To have it do this, I also have to set the Airport to login to ATT DSL (and tell the modem not to do that, which is called operating in Bridged Mode).

When I hung up the phone with ATT support, I was very frustrated that my modem wouldn’t work. I really needed it tonight, and fortunately, I had told the support tech that I would take the modem back to the store in the morning, rather than have him replace it (because I didn’t want to wait for them to ship a new modem). I thought I would try resetting it one more time, and this time I held the button for 30 seconds (remembering that trick from past modems). All the lights went green, and I had an ‘internet connection,’ though actually, as I learned, I really didn’t.

It took me a little while to figure out that I was logged into the default account. I remembered that I had to go back in and change my username and password, so that I could actually get online. Fortunately, after the hard reset, I was now able to access the setup menus on the modem (see below for an explanation). I entered my information, and restarted the modem. Low and behold, I was back online, though I was tethered to the modem with an ethernet cable.

I did the most important communications that I’d been in a hurry to do, then got to thinking about restoring my wireless setup. A little searching online reminded me that I had to change the PPP Location setting to On Computer, instead of the default On Modem. I knew this, but didn’t remember what it was called or where to change the setting. And I hadn’t remembered one key thing…

When I made these changes, the modem gave me a warning as it restarted. Essentially, it told me that I wouldn’t be able to access the modem’s settings interface unless I made the right changes on my computer (I saved these instructions and hope I’ll remember where I put them) or reset the modem. This explains why I wasn’t able to make a direct connection to the modem’s interface until I had succeeded in resetting the modem.

If I had remembered that, I might never have called ATT, or if the tech support guy had thought to ask about bridge mode, then I would have told him. Since I had disconnected my Airport and was trying to connect directly from my computer, I didn’t think it was relevant to tell him that I had the Airport connected at one point. If I’d said that, he probably would have figured it out.

So, if you’re troubleshooting a DSL modem connection problem, it’s probably worth asking whether the modem has ever been set to Bridged Mode. Or if you’re resetting the modem, it’s probably worth holding that button for at least 30 seconds to force a complete reset to factory settings. My 5-second reset gave me the appropriate flashing lights, but obviously didn’t reset everything.

What I don’t know is why the modem stopped working in the first place. My guess is that it was something on ATT’s end that cleared up eventually on its own. Usually restarting the modem fixes the issue when that happens occasionally.

What I do know is how to reset the modem and set everything back up again if this happens again (and I wrote myself instructions for when it happens again). And I know that there’s not a problem with the modem just because my computer can’t connect to the setup screen. Maybe that will help me avoid calling ATT for ‘support’ in the future.

19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kendall Dunkelberg on May 23, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    I will add a note about a discovery I made tonight when the modem lost its connection again for a few minutes. On my Mac (OS Mt Lion 10.8.3) in the Airport menu, if I look at my wireless network, there is a triangle on the right side. When I click and hold on the airport menu then hold my cursor over my network, it reveals a submenu, which has PPPoE Connected/Disconnected and under that Disconnect (or Connect). So when I had that problem, I chose Disconnect. Since my browser wanted a connection, it reestablished one right away, and that solved my connection issue. That will be the first thing I try if I lose the internet connection again. What happens when I do lose the connection is that my Airport symbol cycles through the bars over and over, as if it’s establishing a wireless connection. Sometimes Airport Setup pops up and shows me that the Airport and the Internet status lights are yellow, and there are errors indicating that it is offline.

    Reply

  2. Posted by stevenmusicmaker on February 20, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Note to Kendall Dunkelberg

    Kendall, I really appreciate you putting this detailed info out there on the ‘net, especially since I am having problems with my recently purchased DSL Motorola Modem 3360 here in the Sunshine State!:) Before I get to that, I want to thank you for the info you gave on how to completely RESET a Motorola (any) modem, hold it in for 30 seconds. My older Motorola DSL Modem 2210 failed (all lights continuously flashing [some red, some green], Safari webpage telling me it failed, call tech) in January 2014 and though I called tech support (basically told me to buy a new modem) and though I told them I had tried to reset the old modem pressing reset 5 seconds, the end result was i bought this new replacement Motorola DSL Modem 3360. The reason I am thanking you is because with YOUR – complete – info (reset by holding in for 30 sec) I was able to rejuvenate my old 2210 modem!:) It now lights green (power) without flashing!

    You may have just saved me $60, I think that alone deserves a thank you, so, Thank You!:) I have not yet tried replacing my 3360, that is next (after I write you this).

    Anyway, my name is Steve, and I really appreciate that you have blogged your miseries concerning 3360 because I have found the 3360 considerably more annoying than my old 2210. I am using the same equipment (MacBooK Pro 17″, Snow Leopard v. 10.6.8, Airlink 101) with AT&T DSL that my old modem used for 4 years so I am surprised at constantly having to reboot the 3360 by unplugging it for 20-30 seconds and plugging it back in. I constantly do this, usually when I have left it alone for a few hours, I come back and open my MBP (which is only sleeping) and invariably I must re-start my modem (I just found out about re-starting my modem from AT&T Motorola Home page & device access code). I am sorta hoping that my old 2210 will actually continue to work and maybe I will be free of this constant annoyance! I had to re-start my old 2210 maybe once a month or maybe twice, but not every day! I certainly could go away for a few hours and come back and the 2210 would still be working! I actually think what messed my 2210 up (if I remember correctly), I believe the electricity to the house was interrupted a few times in a row over a minute and that caused my 2210 to fail. Had I known all I needed to do was to press the reset in (while plugged in to power) for 30 seconds, I would have been saved a lot of hassle!

    I might note that when re-reading (today) my DSL Modem 3360’s Quick Start Guide, it makes a special note, while the unit is cycling on:

    “During this time do not unplug the black Power Adapter or green Data Cable. This can damage the modem.”

    So maybe the power interruptions back-to-back scrambled the unit, which I thought may have happened at the time, which is I why I tried to reset…. I also mention this to you, Kendall, since you asked what may have messed up your 3360 at one point. Maybe some power interruptions happened somehow to your unit when it was cycling!

    I mentioned I have a MBP using Snow Leopard, I am also using an Airlink 101, I purchased all these in late 2009. I ran the Airlink 101 on default for the longest time (2 years) since it got me online and wireless. Finally a Refresh Computer worker (Longwood, FL) gave me instructions as to how to setup the security and privacy settings and go online in Safari to do that. The instructions that came with the Airlink 101 were ONLY written for PC so it may as well have been in Spanish, which I do speak a little, but not enough to set up my computer:)! My Airlink 101 was suppose to let me use several things at the same time, wireless, but I have difficulty getting my MBP and iPod Touch to connect simultaneously. One of the reasons I read your blog was to see if I could get any insight, like I say, just being untethered and wireless (since only I use the modem by myself) made me pretty happy and met 80% of my needs!

    Concerning the 3360 constantly wanting to be re-booted. I was re-reading what I did with my Airlink 101 when the Refresh Computer worker in 2012 explained how to go online and set it up properly. It seems I did change some router settings (on my modem?). Maybe I need to make those same connections/settings with the new 3360 modem from my Airlink 101 page in Safari.

    The Safari Motorola AT&T Check Connection page that spits out when things are not working, tells me that three things ARE working, Ethernet, DSL, and ATM, and those corresponding lights are all green on my 3360. The PPPoE FAILS. I am not sure but maybe I configured this using my Airlink 101, but as I say, I am hoping to go back to the 2210 modem and I do not want to reconfigure it for the 3360, though I will recheck that Airlink 101 page later, just to find out about it!

    Let me also say. When my 3360 goofs up, I sometimes try just turning off Airport on my MBP and turning it back on (I am ALWAYS on Airport from MBP). Usually it spits out the Check Connection page, that I believe ALWAYS requires a re-starting of my 3360. If only 3 lights are lighted then I always turn it off for 20-30 sec and back on. After it cycles I can just turn Airport back on and then connect. I also use Little Snitch, it sometime interferes with connections, but I turn it off it I continue to have trouble when connecting, not sure if it is a problem, as such. I have never messed with connecting directly by my Ethernet to fix my 3360, I only used Ethernet cable when I first got the 3360 Jan 10th of this year, used it to register the modem with my email and password.

    Because of you noticing that someone could not call in when you were having this DSL-modem issue, next time my 3360 goes on the blink, I am going to use my cell phone to call my home phone and see if that is messed up, too. Because I am by myself I get very few home phone calls, my phone line could be down and I would never know, so I will probably keep my 3360 online just to check that out! On my home phone I also get static sounds regularly, but only when it is very wet out.

    Concerning the speed of my DSL. I purchased, not the slowest DSL speed, but the 2nd to slowest. I do not expect too much, but I have been pleased with what i do have. I used the speed test in your article. It checks 2 things, 1) How quickly you can download from the Internet, 2) How quickly you can upload to the Internet. You can always download movies and stuff more quickly than you can upload to you email or other places. My download speed was 1.30 or 1.32 Mbps, my upload speed was .20 or .25 Mbps. I looked back to my old speed test in 2010, they were in the same ballpark. Then I researched my ACTUAL AT&T plan from the gazillion plans they list all over, what a racket!

    Now I have always accepted that my download speed was slow so comparing 1.30 or 1.32, from Wi-fi downloading, to AT&T’s 769 Kbps – 1.5 Mbps printed rates, I guess I will not complain at all!

    AT&T High Speed Internet Express
    FastAccess DSL Ultra
    769 Kbps – 1.5 Mbps

    Well, I have a few things I need to check out on my end. Since my speed has not changed much, stayed around 1.30 for downloads, I think the line is probably okay. Maybe for the 3360 to work properly I need to configure the Airlink 101 page with the 3360, but since I am switching back to the 2210, I hope I will not have to concern myself! I will wait until the 3360 goofs up so I can call my home phone, probably won’t have to wait more than a day, then it’s back to my old faithful 2210, though I think it runs hotter than the 3360.

    I find it interesting we were both having PPPoE connection issues with 3360, you because you think your Bridge to Airport Express base station was messing up, me because of what I think may be my security setting on Airlink 101 not being made compatible, yet. I take it since they fixed the ‘port’ your 3360 has worked properly and seamlessly? Hope so:).

    Keep posting about your Apple Internet experiences, I know I liked it! Your link was first on google when I placed the following in google:

    my new motorola dsl modem needs constant rebooting, why

    Please take care, Kendall!

    Sincerely,
    stevenmusicmaker

    Reply

    • Posted by Kendall Dunkelberg on February 20, 2014 at 8:59 am

      Steve,

      Thanks for the detailed comment. I’m glad my posts could be of some help! I notice you said you do have static on your line and it’s worse when it rains. From my experience, that probably indicates a short or crimp somewhere in the wiring. We had that, and I replaced the phone wires leading from the ATT box on the house (Network Interface Device or NID) into the phone jack inside. That did help with the issue, and it’s what I’d start with (if you pay for inside wire maintenance, then call them and tell them you have static and the line needs to be replaced, if not, you can do this yourself or sign up for inside wire maintenance and then call). Once I had ruled out a problem on the interior lines (from the box to inside), then I was confident to call ATT out to check the box and the lines coming to the house. Do that if you still have static on the line. Several things were replaced (it took a few service calls over a period of about a year to resolve fully, but did get better each time). A splice in the line coming into the box may have been a problem. They checked every connection from ATT to my home, and made sure the line itself was clean. The last time, they finally replaced the port on their end (where my phone line begins at the main station). That appears to have solved the problems for me, but they did that when I could demonstrate that my speed tests were significantly lower than they should be (and they were much lower than yours are now). We are also on the next slowest speed of 3 mps (we upgraded to 6 one time, but it was worse than 3 — now that our line is better, we might consider going back to 6, but for now 3 meets our needs). If your surf rate (what speed test measures) drops a lot, then you may want to try to get them to change out your port on ATT’s end. Otherwise, cleaning up the signal on your line should help! If have an old phone that plugs in (not a wireless one), then you can test your connection by opening the ATT box on your house and plugging it in to the test jack inside. If you still hear static, then the problem is coming into the box, but if you hear no static outside and do hear it when plugged in inside, then the problem is between your box and your inside phone. You might try that next time it rains and you hear static. Century Link has a pretty good page with advice on how to troubleshoot, including a video. ATT’s boxes are similar, at least where I live.

      Reply

  3. Posted by john on March 28, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks for the help. Had the same problem today with the same response, “you need a new modem and it will cost $75.” Found your article and tried it out with a few tweaks and got it running on the modem that “doesn’t work anymore so it needs to be replaced.” So, again, thanks for the helping words.

    Reply

    • Posted by Kendall Dunkelberg on March 28, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      You’re very welcome. I’m glad to know my description of these issues helps some folks. These posts get a lot of hits, so I know others face similar issues. Never would have guessed that when I originally wrote!

      Reply

  4. Posted by Daniel on August 25, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    So my problem might not be related to this at all, but on my router/modem thingy there’s a broadband light that just today went blinking red. No Internet on any devices. The computer is saying that the modem or router isn’t getting a dsl or ether net reading. Haven’t called ATT yet, it’s my dad’s account and I don’t have account info and he’s at work. I tried the 5 second reset and 30 second reset and unplugging the modem/router.

    Reply

  5. my modem was hit with lightening. I bought it from ATT so when they replaced it they took “my” modem and replaced it with a new identical modem which they started charging rent for. I told them I owned the old one, they said you cant buy modems from us anymore. You replaced my modem with one just like it whcih I originally bought from you and now you took that one and want to charge me rent for the new one, aint gonna happen. They gave me a year free rent and prmised that when it came time they would extend it. I thnk I am going to switch to comcast.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Dave on December 24, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    I have AT&T DSL (supposed to be the 3Mbps plan) with a Motorola 3360 in bridged mode with an Apple Airport wifi router. I have frequent lost internet connections (sometimes 2 a day, sometimes 1 a week; seems most frequent when doing lots of downloading). I find I have to do the 30 second reset, log in, and change back to bridge mode every time. I have no idea why it disconnects from the internet, but it is maddening to say the least.

    Reply

  7. This happens to me with our Uverse as well-constantly, for about 2-5minutes each time, at random times; guaranteed to happen at least daily if not several times a day. I’ve had AT&T techs out who’ve reset things, tweaked settings, replaced modems, yadda yadda yadda. They can see the droppages on their service graphs/reports, but they tell us we actually have better connection than most in our neighborhood. I put the inquiry out on out NextDoor app this past week,and was shocked at how many in our neighborhood and surrounding area experience the same thing. It’s unacceptable, in my opinion, and even more unacceptable that AT&T doesn’t seem to interested in really fixing the issue… I work from home, so the Internet connection is my livelihood-dependent upon it for meetings, presentations, phone calls, webexes.,. It’s just not worth what I’m paying for. Knowing it is widespread in our neighborhood (and now everywhere else, it appears) has sealed the deal for us to obtain service elsewhere. I’ll be writing a nice letter to AT&T but will definitely find another connection route. Hotspot or something, at least until google fiber arrives.

    Reply

  8. I know this is long after your post, and what I wanted to say is just about as tangential as one can get… You said you hoped you’d be able to find your notes later. My trick for that one involves putting the notes (or often the manuals or whatever) in a ziplock and attaching it to the device. On the back of the fridge is the manual for the fridge. On the back of the microwave is the bag with the manual for the microwave. Doesn’t *always* work, network equipment generates a lot of heat and needs to breathe well. My router’s manuals are in a ziplock under the router, and affixed to the side of the router with a couple of inches of packing tape. The router sits on top of the bag, but the router’s legs hold it up away from the bag. This allows the router to take in air from the bottom. Good luck!

    Reply

  9. I had an issue with my DSL years back and an AT&T tech who knew what he was talking about switched me over to this other line that was available and it changed everything. http://www.davidwesterfield.net/2009/07/6-years-of-att-dsl-connection-woes-resolved-in-1-second/

    Reply

  10. Posted by Anny Cuevas on January 7, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Had the same problem, 4 tech guys did nothing. Your instructions helped us fix. Thanks a bunch.

    Reply

  11. I know this is an old post, so if nobody reads or responds to my comment, I would be shocked. I thought it was worth posting though, because I am using an Airport Extreme in bridged mode to extend my home wifi range as well.

    I am currently using DSL internet service from Fairpoint (the only ISP available in the rural area I live in) and have been having terrible issues with maintaining a reliable internet connection. Some days, we will go all day without any issues. Other days, we may lose the internet half a dozen times or might lose it for the entire afternoon. Sometimes a simple power-cycle will restore our connection. Other times, it’s a matter of “patiently waiting it out”.

    We have spoken to Fairpoint’s tech support several times. They typically walk me through the same steps that I have tried prior to calling them. Ultimately, they have sent out tech to our home a few times and on each visit the tech claims to have “fixed the problem” by doing one thing or another with the cables and connections on the outside of the house… But the fix never lasts. In fact, it’s more likely that any improvement in our connection is purely incidental, since it comes and goes anyway.

    Now for the interesting part… Recently, while on one of my calls with tech support, I was told to do something that I’d never been instructed to do before. While directly accessing my modem, I was directed to access the WAN Service screen and edit the settings. The only change I was told to make was to enter a new PPP password, which the support rep provided me with. Voila! The internet was back up and running at full speed! It continue running smoothly for a few days, but then crashed again yesterday morning… I called tech support once more, they walked me through the same mind-numbing steps as usual, and then they scheduled another on-site tech visit. However, once I got off the phone with them, I started thinking about my previous call… I grabbed my ethernet cord and connected to my modem, re-entered the same PPP password I was given before, and saved the changes. Ta da! The internet was back AGAIN!

    The on-site tech is expected to visit Monday or Tuesday. My internet went down again earlier tonight, but this time I skipped calling for support and immediately went about re-entering the PPP password in the modem settings. Lo and behold, I am connected to the internet using that very modem right now as I type this comment for you to read… So, this now begs the questions, why do I keep losing my internet connection and why is the issue so easily resolved by re-entering the PPP password? In the modem settings, the PPP password is not readable — it appears as a bunch of black dots to hide the actual password — so I have no way of knowing whether the password has remained the same or changed itself when I lose internet. All I know is that I am still using the same password I was given by that tech support agent a few calls back and it works every time.

    And so I turn to you, wonderful, intelligent reader. Tell me, if you can, what the heck is going on with my internet connection?! Any ideas/pointers on what I can do to resolve this issue once and for all? Any and all suggestions are welcome and greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Reply

  12. Posted by nil2thebrain on April 27, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    Props to every person who left a comment- and DETAILED AT THAT!-
    Just wanted to give you guys the credit you deserve for actually working together as civil people.
    Explaining your issues and explaning clearly how to resolve issues.
    Just wanted to say that I don’t see this everyday and byfar the most informative web-site I’ve EVER READ THOROUGHLY…..

    Reply

  13. Posted by Raj on July 12, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Reset the device for greater than 30 seconds helped me.

    Reply

  14. […] a longer-term view of what posts have performed best. My most popular post ever by far is “How I fixed my DSL modem connection, no thanks to ATT support.” I wrote it in May 2013 and it garnered a modest 33 visits that month. Not bad for a tiny […]

    Reply

  15. Posted by Leah on October 10, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Hold down the reset button for an entire 30 seconds! 🎉Bam! Back in business. Thank you!!

    Reply

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