CenturyLink Blues

Like most of the Internet Service Providers, CenturyLink has plenty of folks that believe that they’re staffed by creatures from the abyss. Personally, I’ve found their tech folks to be reasonable, especially when they realize I have an IT background and they can “talk the language” with me.

I’m stuck in the geometric center of nowhere, and my choices for Internet are dial-up (and yes, it’s still available if you have a landline), satellite (Hughesnet), Verizon (wildly overpriced, and I’ll discuss it below), and, recently, CenturyLink.

Verizon Wireless Internet

I heard that Verizon offered up to 20Mbps service using their wireless towers, so I went ahead and signed up. The 30GB plan/month meant little streaming of Netflix and Amazon Prime, but I thought the speed would be most important.

The folks came out and set things up and I was off and running. The first action item was to sync my 7GB Dropbox account to my laptop. Unfortunately, the connection wasn’t fantastic. There were lots of connects/reconnects. In two days, syncing my 7GB Dropbox account put me over my 30GB cap by 10GB. Yup, over a month and a quarter’s worth of connectivity gone in two days.

I thought to myself that it was my fault for not watching the traffic. That’s when the connection went down. The only thing that worked from Verizon was their automatic payment system sucking $120 from the bank. Call after call had them promising to send out a contractor from a city a hundred miles away. Nobody showed. Eventually I had to tell them that I refused to pay for a system that did not work, so they took out $250 more for the contract termination fee, even though they acknowledged that my system had been down for months.

Expensive lesson, and I wouldn’t recommend you use Verizon for wireless Internet service under any circumstances.


Enter CenturyLink, who was the landline provider for my rural area for years (and they used to be Qworst … oops … I mean Qwest.)

The Evil Modem from CenturyLink

PK5001z CenturyLink Wireless Modem

They recently upgraded their services so I could get DSL. The bad news? The onlyservice available was a whopping 1.5Mbps service download and 128K upload. With no choice (I know many folks with issues when using satellite Internet), I went with them.

They sent a modem via UPS. I had to purchase it, and it was an overpriced Actiontek PK5001a combination wireless modem. The installer came out and connected it and left as fast as he could. I say installer because he had no idea about any of the technical details.

He had tested things while wired to the modem. Unfortunately, wireless was dead. After poking around with it, I called their service line and arranged for a tech to come out … the following week. Meanwhile, my meter was running for the service.

The harried tech that showed up definitely knew what he was doing. That old “installer” gent had connected stuff to the existing cracked and exposed phone lines. The first thing I tried to do was to get some Cat5e cable and wire it through the wall to the modem. The tech who came out did compliment me on my wiring skills.

Once he saw that they had shipped me the PK5001a, he laughed and wondered why they were still shipping them. He spent most of his time driving and replacing them because they were crap. He swapped it out with a Zyxel version (PK5001z) and I was up and running.

CenturyLink Recommended Fixes

It’s been a year with that modem and, off and on, I’ve had problems connecting to the Internet. I’ve been struggling with my laptop for ages because the connection seemed to be a laptop issue. Any browser I used timed out or couldn’t resolve the names of websites I visited daily, including this, my author blog. Meanwhile, Dropbox and Google Drive remained connected with no issues. That’s why I focused on my laptop for months.

I had finally had enough. After a marathon troubleshooting session, with plenty of breaks because of health issues, I finally realized the problem wasn’t with my laptop at all. The issue was with the CenturyLink modem’s wireless system.

I happened to have a Linksys 5GB Wireless-N router sitting in a box, so I dug it out and set it up. I logged into my CenturyLink modem and turned off the wireless radio and switched the modem to something called “transparent bridging mode”. This is something I used to do when setting up businesses years ago. Transparent Bridging Mode makes the modem connect to CenturyLink’s network and pass the IP address through the device. My Linksys wireless router’s Internet port connected to the PK5001z’s Eth1 socket, and suddenly everything started working.

When I say working, everything was working far better than I expected. I can transfer files at Gigabit speeds between devices in my house, so streaming a show from a network drive to my television is at HD-speeds. Because the Linksys is a dual-channel router, I run the media on one channel and the surfing on the other. Suddenly I could surf without making Netflix stop to buffer. Yes, they both run through CenturyLink’s modem, but the Linksys is far more efficient in how it transfers. Without the crappy PK5001z’s wireless system in the mix, stuff is flying, relatively speaking.

If you’re having an issue with your DSL setup, maybe it is time you kill the crappy wireless setup they “gave” you and switch to something that works.

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