Computers and Internet

Recent Comcast outage and lessons learnt about Netgear R8500

I wanted to share some experiences with the Netgear R8500 router that we’re using at home.

For several months now, we have been happily using the router; we have 30+ devices at home… Then Comcast outage hit our area, some 900+ customers went out for 4+ hours.

While outages do occur, when Comcast did restore the service, R8500 could not recover on its own. It would show “Internet status” as “good”, able to check firmware update presence (reported that there is nothing new), yet none of the internal systems could access outside.

A bit deeper troubleshooting revealed that it’s using OpenDNS DNS servers in DHCP configuration and wouldn’t allow me to override that, citing that Parental Controls were enabled and that I needed to disable them.

Fine I thought, I went to Parental Controls page but clicking on it routed me to OpenDNS parental controls link — and guess what, Internet is down. I need Internet to disable Parental controls? That doesn’t make sense..

So here’s the main reason I’m posting this note. Netgear’s configuration software is so poorly written, that “Parental Controls” option can not be disabled/overwritten by the administrator locally on the router itself through the web interface. This feature locks DNS configuration down and creates a hard dependency on OpenDNS DNS servers. If for any reason you’re unable to reach those 2 IP addresses on the net, you have no access to Internet and no way to fix this through web interface.

Then how did I come out of this trouble? Mobile app. iOS genie app does have an ON/OFF switch for Parental Controls and I managed to disable it that way.

From there I could switch the DNS back to service provider’s DNS (Auto).

That still did not solve my Internet access problem, which speaks to again R8500 software — it couldn’t recover from simple outage and false reported connection status as “good”.

Next? Reboot. I rebooted R8500 and this time it was able to restore service to clients at home.

For those who are considering Netgear Nighthawk R8500, while it is fast — software is very poorly written. I think Asus is better than this, but at this stage I’m considering Google Mesh based on good reviews on their software. If you have similar experiences, please drop a note below.

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