Crap-5 Cabling

This one’s a tale that happened back at the beginning of the pandemic this year.

With everyone in the family here doing their work/school from home, I decided to double check the networking in the house to make sure everything’s up to snuff. Everything seemed okay.

Except for one thing. The network switch on the main floor was a fast ethernet (100 megabits per second) switch, not a gigabit (1,000 megabits per second) switch. This same switch was feeding my Unifi wifi access point, and was working fine up until now.

However, it wouldn’t be just a few Echo devices and the occasional Netflix viewer being serviced now. My wife would need the wifi to be rock solid and as fast as possible to get her work done.

So, I decided to update the switch to a new gigabit model.

Honestly, the slower switch would have still been viable to use, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Plus, if I hadn’t done that little upgrade, I wouldn’t have discovered the following little annoyance.

You see, as soon as I plugged the new switch in, it showed a link speed of… wait for it… 100Mbps.

I tried different network cables from the wall to the switch and got the same result. I then tried all the different ports on the switch and got the same result again.

Wondering if I was going crazy, I checked the main switch in the basement to make sure it actually was a gigabit switch. It was. (As a side note, it’s not good practice to chain switches together like this. It still works – it just makes tracking down a fault very painful. If you’re a business, don’t do this – one bad switch port can take down a good chunk of your network because you were cheap. Also, I didn’t want to pay our house builder’s exorbitant $500 price tag to run a second cable to the main floor.)

Thinking I had bought a faulty switch for upstairs, I connected the access point directly to the wall.

Same thing.

What the heck was going on here?

Somewhat thankfully, the basement isn’t finished. So, I was able to peek at the ceiling and see if there was any funny stuff going on with the cables. This is what I saw.

Those, folks, are heavy staples being used to tack the tv, telephone, and network cables to the joists.

You don’t staple network cable. In fact, you shouldn’t staple any kind of wiring to anything else. You’re supposed to use proper cable clips. These things:

Basically, what I think happened is that there’s probably a broken wire somewhere along this cable run. Either that, or some of the 8 tiny wires inside the network cable have sustained enough staple damage to degrade their performance. So, good enough for 100Mbps, but forget about ever getting gigabit.

I’m really glad I didn’t pay extra to have them install a second run.

And that’s the story of how I further confirmed, 10 years later, that our home builder really was incompetent and/or cheapskates.

That last statement might seem a bit harsh, but, believe me when I say I have many more upcoming stories regarding their incompetence. This was just the latest one that I found.

Take care, folks, and stay safe.

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