Frozen Intertubes

Last week was cold, very cold. I took the standard precautions for my water pipes, leaving a dripping faucet overnight. Who knew, though, that those weren’t the only pipes that could freeze?

Wednesday night, as the temperature dropped, my Internet connection slowed down to an unbearable crawl. The next morning, I had no connection at all. After some trouble-shooting over the phone with Comcast, they scheduled someone to visit us on Saturday.

Mid-day on Thursday, the connection came back. I assumed that Comcast had fixed a line into the neighborhood, that all would be well. End of story.

‘Twasn’t to be. Thursday night, we lost our connection again. Friday morning, it came back.

Friday night, we lost our connection. Saturday morning, it came back.

At this point, I had a theory: packets were freezing in my intertubes. “That’s impossible,” I then told myself. “The Internet can’t just freeze like that.” Nonetheless, it fit the evidence, so I needed a reasonable explanation of how it might happen.

Here’s what I came up with: there’s a bad connection somewhere. Small bits of metal might be contracting and pulling apart from each other, making this connection even worse. When it gets cold enough, the metal contracts enough that I lose my connection entirely.

Saturday evening, the Comcast technician came. I explained what was happening, and he was just as surprised as I. He started at my modem and started looking at connections heading out of the house. After reaching the last connection in the crawl space, he saw that it might have been corroded. He replaced the hardware there, and my connection has worked since then.

Of course, it’s also been 30 degrees warmer since then, so I’m not certain that the problem happened there. But I have an Internet connection, so I’m happy. We’ll see what happens next time the temperature drops below 0.

Update (2009-01-30): Nope, not that connection. Looks like it must be one outside the house. Another Comcast technician came yesterday, but he didn’t want to haul his ladder all the way up our driveway. We’ll have to wait until this weekend to see if we can get Internet access after sunset.

Update (2009-02-01): Somebody from Comcast willing to climb a ladder finally made it out this weekend. Looks like a squirrel ate our cable line, letting water in, which was freezing at night.