Mockingbird testing progresses

Mockingbird TowerCondensed version: We’ve narrowed down the Mockingbird Tower problem to RF noise that spikes periodically. Our tower equipment and configuration are clean and validated. We now need to perform after-midnight testing over the next few days that will result in brief (10-20 minute) interruptions of service for a number of the subscribers on this tower.

Details and analysis follow for the technically curious. Continue reading

A Red Queen Marathon

After two nights of record windstorms, today (Sunday) was devoted to an impromptu “tower tour,” driving around our service area and checking for visual confirmation of proper aim on the majority of our towers.

The Easy Street input feed dish had been blown clockwise about 70°. (The Easy Street neighborhood itself was pretty slammed, with roads strewn with wash silt and downed trees; our host’s flagpole was actually bent in half by the winds!) Without a roof man, given that the dish was far above my reach, I attempted a rough re-aim job by “pokin’ a stick at it” (our 16′ telescoping pole) from a ladder, with surprisingly satisfactory results.

The output feed from the NOC to 251st Avenue had also been blown off kilter, and was re-aimed in the same manner. The mast has gone a bit wobbly over time, which will be addressed when we can schedule Dave, our roof man, to fine tune and lock in all of today’s crude readjustments.

One thing these storms made quite apparent is a need for more UPS power capability than we currently enjoy. Although the NOC, Constellation Tower, and our Wickenburg gateway are hardened by indoor UPS systems that provide them about 90 minutes of emergency power, most of our towers have no UPS. During the last two nights of power outages in central Morristown and Castle Hot Springs, all our Morristown tower subscribers were taken offline immediately because no power was available to our windmill tower—even though the NOC continued operating (and serving 251st Avenue, which suffered no extended power outage either night).

As funding allows, we plan to begin introducing indoor UPS systems at host-based towers, which is technically simple—weatherproof UPS units for the standalone towers (Morristown, Mockingbird, and Rio Vista) are expected to be more problematic, but a search for suitable equipment is on our immediate agenda.

In addition, it’s clear that the sheer amount of equipment installed at the NOC and the gateway locations deserves beefier UPS units that can provide more than 90 minutes of outage protection, since when these locations go dark, many or all towers lose service.

There’s nothing like weather problems to trigger a Red Queen Marathon: a situation where you must run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place. We’re going to be running one of our own over the next few months, to better prepare ourselves for future monsoon devilry.

(And the weatherman says there is 45% chance of a third record windstorm tonight.)  😭

 

Leave the light on for us

Just another reminder to our seasonal subscribers not to shut the power off on their rooftop receivers, if at all possible, when they leave for the season.

Our network is always undergoing improvements in performance and reliability, as well as expansion. Certain of these improvements require reaching into all our subscribers’ roof units and making coordinated changes between them and the towers that serve them. If you turn your equipment off for the summer season, we won’t be able to update your unit. When you return here, you may find your account’s configuration six months behind everyone else’s, and your service may not be immediately operational.

Your internet equipment uses less power then an incandescent night-light or a single Christmas-tree bulb. Please leave it powered up. Thank you!

Signal Tour Complete

The Mockingbird West and Morristown East towers have been complaint-free for nearly a month now; and with today’s elevation and realignment (and, in one case, physical draining and drying!) of the equipment installed at our last remaining problematic subscribers of Rio Vista tower, we are officially calling a successful close to our Great Subscriber Signal Tour of 2015.

Ever mindful of the embarrassing dangers of prematurely hoisting the “Mission Accomplished” banner, we will continue to monitor subscriber connection dropouts to shortstop individual subscriber signal problems as they may occur.

Thank you for choosing Grand Avenue Broadband. Your commitment and support means everything to our business.

Intermittent Service Cure Plan

Simultaneously with the arrival of the current cold weather, we began receiving automated connectivity failure reports against a number of our subscribers, mainly those being served by our Mockingbird West tower, with Rio Vista, and Morristown East users in place and show positions. They were difficult to pin down, primarily because the metrics reported by the towers didn’t support any particular diagnosis. We replaced the radio unit at Mockingbird West in case the receiver discrimination was going sour, but gained zero relief.

After several weeks of thrashing and several hours of attention from consultants, we now believe we understand the problem, and have an action plan in place to address it. Continue reading

Robust or Bust!

Last Friday, we completed the upgrade of Castle Hot Springs tower, activating the redundant transmission link between that tower and 251st Avenue. All subscribers on our network are now immune to the failure of any single transmission link.

In conjunction with grounding improvements at Mockingbird Tower, which has eliminated our “every three months” radio replacement problem there, and the recent power supply upgrade and firewall review at our Wickenburg gateway, our network is now exhibiting higher reliability than ever before.

Thank you for continuing to allow us to be your broadband services provider.

 

Dodging Thor’s Hammer

Talk about timing!hammerdodge

Last night’s storm activity blacked out Morristown from Circle City roughly out to the rest area, from just after midnight to just before 8 AM. The blanket power failure took down our Morristown, 251st Avenue, Castle Hot Springs, and Circle City towers, our operations center, and both eastern gateways, leaving only the Wickenburg gateway and our towers west of the rest stop operational.

Last week, that would have shut down our subscribers to Skip-In Ranch tower as well, because their traffic had to be routed first through Morristown in order to reach any gateway. But the new direct-to-Wickenburg link we erected just three days ago kept our Skip-In users online and connected through the storm.

New equipment to harden service similarly for our 251st Avenue and Castle Hot Springs subscribers should be arriving this week, as well as spares for critical pieces of equipment.

It’s our baseline goal to be at least as responsive and reliable as the big providers.

Temporary One-Way Traffic

"Bridge Out" signWe were recently informed by Arizona Wifiby, who has been providing bulk bandwidth for our Morristown and Circle City internet gateways for the past year, that they have decided to terminate service to us as of August 1.

What does this mean to you as a subscriber? A year ago, it would have meant the total termination of your internet service. Today, you probably wouldn’t even suspect it if we hadn’t told you about it. Continue reading