This is a question that hit my inbox a few days ago. As I go along, you’ll understand why I am only posting it today:
Hello IT Nerd. I’m sending you this e-mail as I hope you can help me. I have Rogers Internet and for the last three weeks or so I’ve been getting massive lag spikes while playing Call Of Duty, Team Fortress 2, and Counterstrike among other games. I reached out to Rogers Tech Support and they had me do some trace routes as well as they looked at a few things on their end and said that there’s nothing wrong. But I still have these problems. I get the feeling that they will not fix my problem until I provide proof that I have a problem. So I am asking for your help. What can I do to get Rogers to do something about my lag spikes?
Thanks for your question. First, some background. Playing games on the Internet with or against other people is a time and bandwidth sensitive activity. Thus if you have a bad or flaky Internet connection, you are at a huge disadvantage relative to whomever you might be playing with or against. Now this reader is experiencing lag spikes which Wikipedia defines as the following:
In online gaming, lag is a noticeable delay between the action of players and the reaction of the server. Although lag may be caused by high latency, it may also occur due to insufficient processing power in the client and/or server.
Let me give you an example of this within the context of what we’re talking about which is online gaming. You’re playing a game and you’re walking down a hallway. Suddenly you see an opponent. At the moment you go to shoot them, everything freezes and you are unable to do anything for 30 seconds. When things return to normal, you are dead (because you froze giving your opponent an easy target to shoot at). That would suck. Now imagine this happening every few minutes. That would really suck.
Now I did reach out to this reader to ask what type of computer he had just to rule that out. He came back with a very, very powerful gaming computer. So the Internet connection has to be the culprit. This is further confirmed by the fact that three weeks ago he had no issues while using the same computer.
Now the next thing I did is to use Google to see how widespread this is. A search using “lag spikes Rogers” brings back results dating back years and some involving the World Of Warcraft issue that was well publicized at the time. If you take the stuff related to World Of Warcraft out of the results, there seems to be a consistent pattern of users on Rogers Internet having problems using online games.
Now on to the troubleshooting that Rogers did. I am not sure what Rogers “checked on their end.” But I have to guess they were checking the ability of the customers modem to connect to them. Specifically the power and signal levels that the modem is reporting. I’m guessing that they found nothing on that front as they would have had to dispatch a tech if they did find anything amiss or suggest a modem replacement. That takes us to the traceroute that they did. What a traceroute does is it traces the route that packets take from say your computer to another location on the Internet like Google.com for example. It also displays the amount of time it takes to move between each “hop” on the net. A “hop” may be a router, a gateway, or some other device on the Internet and those should be very quick. As in milliseconds. Here’s an example from the computer I am typing this from to Google.com:
Tracing route to google.com [126.96.36.199]
over a maximum of 30 hops:
1 2 ms 3 ms 1 ms 216-191-50-161.dedicated.allstream.net [216.191.
2 2 ms 2 ms 2 ms ae0.gw2-tor.bb.allstream.net [188.8.131.52]
3 4 ms 2 ms 2 ms 184.108.40.206
4 2 ms 3 ms 2 ms 220.127.116.11
5 3 ms 2 ms 2 ms 18.104.22.168
6 79 ms 8 ms 2 ms yyz08s14-in-f5.1e100.net [22.214.171.124]
If you notice that it takes no more than 8 ms to go from point to point. That’s great. now if it were in the double or triple digits on one or more of the hops, that would be bad. Thus running a traceroute is a valid way of troubleshooting an issue like this. The only catch is that the readers issue is transient. Therefore unless you do the traceroute while it is happening, you may not gain any further insight as to what might be going on. In this situation, you’d likely have to run a packet analyzer for a period of time to catch this in the act. Now this is something that an ISP that has a business paying for business level Internet access would do. But no ISP is going to do that for a consumer grade Internet connection. So I am guessing that the person he spoke to at Rogers likely ran a couple of traceroutes and found nothing wrong because the issue was not manifesting itself at that time. Thus they said that there’s no issue. I can understand why the reader would be frustrated as he experiences an issue and Rogers can’t find any evidence of an issue. So in effect, it’s like the noise that your car makes that disappears when you take it to the dealer. They can’t fix what they can’t see.
Now one of the games that this reader mentioned was Team Fortress 2. I haven’t played that game in a very long time, but I have it on my MacBook Pro. So I fired it up and started playing. Within five minutes I was able to replicate the issue on my Rogers Internet connection. To further rule out the MacBook Pro as being the source, I played the game on two of my customer’s networks over the last couple of days (with their permission of course). One was on Allstream (which is business class Internet) and one was running Bell DSL. I could not replicate the issue on either. I did some further troubleshooting by doing traceroutes to the servers that my copy of Team Fortress 2 was connecting to via my Rogers Internet connection and I found that specific hops within the traceroutes that were within the Rogers network would be there in one moment and then be inaccessible the next. That I find weird as it is my experience that a hop is either responding or it isn’t and that shouldn’t change. Thus I think this is somehow related.
Thus this implies that Rogers may have an issue that they need to address. Though I cannot confirm what that issue might be. It also implies that I have an issue that I’ve never noticed because I am not a heavy gamer. That’s delightful. In any event, I have reached out to Rogers for a comment and I will update this story when I get some feedback from them.