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Internet Problems? Look Here!

By Charles Miller

It seems that no matter how many times I explain how the Internet works, I have to keep explaining it because a few people still do not understand the basics. All too often when I am on the phone with someone and I ask if they can verify whether or not their computer has Internet connectivity they will answer, “Yes, the green light is on,” or “Yes, because the little wireless icon has three bars.” Unfortunately, those things are not really indicators of Internet connectivity.

In many ways the Internet works similarly to the telephone system. Just because your friend’s telephone is out of service, that does not mean that every telephone in the world is also out of service. Inversely, just because your friend’s telephone is working okay, it does not follow that everyone’s telephone everywhere in the world is also working okay. Problems can be localized. I think everyone gets that, or at least I hope so.

More often than not when people call me to report their Internet being down, the real problem turns out not to be their local Internet service but some distant server. In other words, Yahoo.com can be down while Gmail.com is still up, or Hotmail.com down while FastMail.com is up. In both examples the person’s local Internet connection was not at fault. If only there were a way to tell where the problem—and there is!

People who are affected by an on outage typically call their Internet Service Provider (ISP) only to be told that there is no issue with Megacable or Telmex locally and the problem must be elsewhere. A better move would have been to try to locate the problem before calling the ISP. Downdetector.com is an independently owned and operated free service provided by a company in The Netherlands. The website at Downdetector provides an up-to-date information source for reports of Internet outages at hundreds of companies.

Downdetector collects frequent status reports from Internet providers, mobile providers, email providers, airlines, public transport, and others. For some bigger companies, the reports offer an outage map displaying the location of recent reports.

The maps can be quite useful because on one occasion when Yahoo Mail seemed to be down, the map showed many trouble reports along the west coast of the US but none in Europe. Instead of trying to log into yahoo.com (US) I typed in yahoo.de (Germany) and was connected straight away to that portal. Was für ein Glück! From there I clicked on the “Mail” icon and, believe it or not, the German Yahoo server somehow found a connection back to the US server and to the Yahoo email account I needed to access.

And what would it mean if you tried but were unable to connect to downdetector.com? In that case you might indeed be experiencing a problem with your local Internet connection. That would be the time to call your local ISP.

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 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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