The Most Basic Procedures to Fix Your Internet Connection

The Computer Corner

Charles Miller

The most frequent telephone call I receive is from someone who is unable to connect to the Internet, so this week I want to review some of the most basic procedures to follow when you think you are experiencing a loss of Internet connectivity. Knowing some basic troubleshooting skills can save you time, money, aggravation, and might actually keep you out of jail (more on that later).

When you connect your computer, tablet, or smartphone to the Internet, its connection is routed through a number of servers in order to connect you to the place you want to go. For the purposes of this example I will use facebook.com; however, this information applies to any website found on the Internet. When you open the Facebook web page, your computer/tablet/phone sends a connection request through your local router to your Internet Service Provider through their network of servers. Those servers that might be in Mexico City or Chicago; from there the request is routed to other servers in places such as Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Diego, then finally to the location where Facebook has their server. If the connection is broken at any point along the route you will receive one of those dreaded “Cannot connect to…” messages. Where that break occurred is very important, and before you pick up the phone to call someone for help, you need to determine where the problem is located.

You need to learn the procedure, while your Internet connection is working correctly. Point your web browser to google.com and search on the name of your operating system (such as Windows, OS-X, Android, iOS) plus the words “trace route internet.” The Google search engine will be certain to find hundreds of tutorials giving step-by-step instruction on how to do this most basic of Internet connectivity troubleshooting procedures.

When you are unable to connect to a website, you should trace the route to that site to determine where the problem exists. Sometimes the problem is local, but sometimes there is no problem you can fix, because the site you are trying to reach is down or otherwise unreachable.

Facebook’s famous mantra has long been “Move Fast and Break Things.” In its headlong rush to push out new tools and features, speed takes priority over caution, a practice that sometimes results in crashing the site. That is what happened last summer when the Facebook site was completely down for a time. When this happens, there is nothing to be done save wait for the engineers at Facebook to fix it.

In preparing this column I spoke by phone with Sergeant Burton Brink, the public information officer for the Los Angeles, California Sheriff Department. He told me that during a recent Facebook outage dozens of clueless Internet users called 911 emergency services seeking help getting back on the social media site. That prompted him to take to Twitter announcing “Facebook is not a law enforcement issue, please don’t call us about it being down, we don’t know when FB will be back up!”

In most jurisdictions it is a crime for any person to willfully use the 911 systems for any purpose other than reporting an emergency. That means the next time Facebook goes down, you do not call 066 in Mexico or 911 in the US. Emergency Responders don´t know when Facebook is going to return, but they do know how to find and arrest you if you abuse their phone system.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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