I'm at this coffeeshop (regularly), and it seems that there are always people online getting good work done, but I cannot reliably expect the wifi to work for me. Despite the fact that my computer always seems to be able to "connect" to it.

I do not have (more than user) access to the router/ap. They give out the key to the WPA2 network, they don't have one of those capturey jobbies where all pages redirect to it until you authenticate.

The employees say that they get sporadic complaints, but that it always seems to be working for others when there's a complaint.

I've grown superstitious over it. Some websites would be reachable, (e.g. google search, but not the links out from results page) but others will be unavailable. Sometimes, if can can convince it to connect to my campus VPN, then its just fine, but other times it seems like even having the vpn client (Pulse Secure) running (not connected) makes the connection not work.

I'm on a mac, but others (CS folks, I only mention in case there's some likely nerd stuff that could be screwing all of us, unbeknownst to us) also have trouble from windows.

What steps should I perform to narrow down what the problem could be so that I can either prevent it myself, or report to them what they should look into?

I have tried:

  1. rebooting my machine (Pulse Secure not starting with machine boot).
    • this has never seemed to matter
  2. already having vpnclient exited before coming in range of their network
    • seems to work sometimes
  3. trying first to connect to my campus vpn over the coffeeshop network
    • sometimes this works
  4. turning wifi off/on
    • doesn't seem to help
  5. telling macos to forget their network, and then adding it back
    • doesn't seem to help

So I can always "connect" to their network, but can only sporadically access anything.

  • A quick test might be to open two terminal windows, and ping the router's ip address (the gateway) for 3 mins in one window while simultaneously pinging a website in the other. If your wifi is bad, both would have similar/identical periods with timeouts. If the router always responds, but the internet beyond stops, then it is not the wifi, and is either upstream, the router is saturated, {magic}. – Yorik Jul 5 at 15:53

I've also faced a similar issue, and the only thing that worked for me was disabling ipv6 (thanks to this post).

If you're on a mac you can do that like so: networksetup -setv6off Wi-Fi

If anyone knows how to toggle something like this based on SSID that would also be great.

Most coffee shops, including franchises like Starbucks. Do not have better than home-grade access points.

These type of access points do not have "fair bandwidth" distribution. They use a packet queuing strategy called fifo (first in first out). The router will hold states open for the already active conversations taking place.

In essence what this means is, the first person to set up and start hogging bandwidth, is able to hold on to a chunk of the total bandwidth from the ISP. When I have seen this happen, on Amtrak to Boston and at other coffee shops, the people doing this are streaming youtube/pandora, checking Twitter and simultaneously using other network services. Because people do not understand the technology, and do not think with consideration to other people using the service. (Most people look at any connection they are on as if it was their own 4g private connection) and use it just like they would at home.

The end result is what you are experiencing. From my perspective, you only have a couple of options.

  • ask the coffee shop to upgrade the connection to one that supports the avg number of simultaneously connections they currently have. (My experience with local coffee shops is they do not care. The sign for free WiFi was to lure you in off the street and sell you coffee, not make sure you can reach your news feed while doing so.)

  • Get on earlier, beat the trendy coffee shop users to the punch. Get on earlier in the morning and secure your own chunk before the bandwidth 🐷's come and start writing their novels that will never be published.

  • (not recommended) you can always deauth/kick other users off of the network momentarily to be able to use it. I have had to use this a couple times to allow a work email to escape the network.

  • if you are actually trying to get work accomplished, you may want to look in to a MiFi 3g/4g device. They can be very convenient for situations like this. If you are in the U.S and on a tight budget, look into freedompop. You can get a no charge account (you still pay once for the mifi device, but get 1-2 gigs free a month) this works out extremely well in emergency situations when you absolutely have to get that email out, and don't want to mess around with hotspots ect.

Regards

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.