Wi-Fi Woes: A Modern Technology Tale

Recently, my 94-year-old mother was living in an assisted living facility, and she didn’t like it — at all.  After repeated discussions we decided to move my mom back to her home, which is what she wanted.

When I had moved her into assisted living, I had disconnected her cable and internet as the cost was around $150 per month, and she wouldn’t be at home to use these services. I had also had her landline phone number forwarded to the assisted living location so that any calls for her would ring in her room, where she might or might not answer, depending on her mood.

Upon deciding to return her to her home, I had to re-establish my mother’s telephone, cable TV and internet. Before I had moved her out of her house, I had installed two Wi-Fi IP cameras so that I could look at her remotely to make sure she was okay. Now that she was back at home, my brother and sister who live out of state were bugging me to get the cameras working again so that they could check in on Mom.

Dave Engebretson is president of Slayton Solutions Ltd, and provides fiber optic and networking training for our industry. Check out Dave’s services at

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First, I tackled the phone line. After repeated conversations with my mother’s telecom carrier I determined that a) they couldn’t or wouldn’t switch her phone number back to her house and b) the carrier didn’t care about residential wired landlines anymore — everything is about internet connectivity and VOIP phones.

When I initially changed the phone service to my mom’s room at the assisted living, I had my alarm company (Arlington Security — hi Jim!) put in a wireless alarm transmitter so that any alarm conditions would be delivered to the central station, including from her medical emergency buttons.

Since I couldn’t seem to get the telco carrier to bring her phone number back to her house, I gave up on them. From the internet I found a relatively inexpensive and simple cell phone and ordered it for my mother’s use. She received a brand new phone number, and I had to call/text all the relatives to let them know her new number. I also had to train my mother repeatedly on using the cell phone; she doesn’t understand that it’s a radio, not a landline phone, and she has to press “send” to make a phone call happen. She also doesn’t like the apparently constant echo on her end when she’s talking to people, and she always asks me to do something about it. My pleas that I can’t control cell phone carriers and how they work don’t have an effect on her opinions.

After working around the landline/cell phone issue, I took on the process of programming the existing internet router to open the ports so that the cameras could be accessed. I had everything programmed and ready to go when the cable provider’s service person arrived at my mom’s house to fire up the cable and internet. The service person said that the existing router was obsolete, and needed to be replaced with their brand-new XYZ Wi-Fi router. He plugged it in, tested the TV and basic internet connectivity and was out the door before I could ask him about how to “port forward” specific ports on the router so that the cameras could be accessed remotely.

I was on my own now, and for three hours I tried and tried to get the port forwarding programmed and failed. The internet routers I had dealt with previously could be programmed locally from a laptop as long as I had connected the Wi-Fi and hit the router’s local IP address, and all of the default settings for the router were printed on a label on the router itself. This router had the same information, but when I accessed the router, I couldn’t get into the programming.

Now I had to spend the better part of an hour waiting on hold for tech support for the router, only to spend even more time as the uninformed tech support person couldn’t really understand my problems with their router. The one piece of information I got was that I had to establish an online account for the router, and could only change the programming by accessing the online account, which then would provide access for me.

‘If planning to use IP cameras that require port forwarding, dealers should confirm the make and model of the customer’s Wi-Fi internet router, [and] that the basic router access info is printed on the router itself.’

I set up the account, got to the router and searched in vain for the “port forwarding” settings. In some devices, port manipulations fall under the name “virtual server” or some other designation.

I looked and looked and could not find the port forwarding settings. So, I gave up. This was humiliating as I have programmed scores of routers and hundreds of IP cameras to be accessed over the internet, but I was defeated by my mom’s internet service carrier and their convoluted router programming method. Obviously they don’t want the customer to program the router, so they have made it so difficult that the average person can’t do it.

I moved Mom home and told my siblings that there was no camera access. After a couple of weeks, I looked into the Nest cameras from Google, like the one I have in my own house. I put ours in more than five years ago, it works just fine, and as I remember, getting it onto the internet was very simple. So, I bought one of these cameras, took it to Mom’s house, and had it on the internet and my cell phone in ten minutes. The difference with the Nest cameras is that they are pre-programmed to hit their server on the internet and transmit the video signals to the cloud, which can be accessed by authorized users from any IP/internet device. Honeywell’s Total Connect cameras function in a similar manner.

One thing I really like about the Nest camera system is that it stores motion that is detected in the camera’s field of view as single images. With this feature I can quickly confirm that my mom has indeed gotten out of bed and gone to her primary sitting chair without having to wade through recordings to find out if she has been moving around the house.

What did I learn from all of this that applies to our industry? First, if planning to use IP cameras that require port forwarding, dealers should confirm the make and model of the customer’s Wi-Fi internet router, along with verification that the basic router access info is printed on the router itself.

The other thing that I see as a potential sale closer is for dealers to provide the Nest cameras to their customers as a sweetener for a complete security system. Because they are so easy to install, dealers can add them to a system without more than half an hour of additional labor time.

Things are going okay with Mom; however, the Cubs traded Javi Baez and she is not happy. How do you trade a guy that steals home plate? //