‘What do I do if my Internet pipes freeze?’

010815blog internet pipes
Credit: Erik Solheim

The question in the headline, posed by an impish troll to readers of Reddit’s section devoted to networking – r/networking -- was followed by this plea:

Hello there,

I live in Chicago and recently it has been very cold outside and I've noticed that my Internet is running super slow. And sometimes it refuses to connect at all. I think my pipes are frozen due to the extreme cold. I asked my IT guy at work and he said to check out Reddit for an answer so here I am IT gurus! Please help me. … Thanks.

Help they did.

  • “This should go to /r/homenetworking. We only deal with enterprise pipe freezes here.”
  • “I recommend a slow, steady download to keep the bits constantly moving until the temp rises above freezing. This is especially important for attic and outside ‘plumbing.’ If the download is wrapped with a VPN, it will better insulate the packets, too.”
  • “You need to purchase Intertubez Anti-Freeze™ and upload it to the cloud. It should prevent it from happening again.”

And then, while everyone was enjoying the good laughs, the discussion took an unexpected turn.

“Believe it or not this is a thing. I was having a discussion with the fiber tech from Comcast during some installs we had going on last year during the cold snap and he told me that when it gets really cold, the gel that is used to surround the fiber stand can expand and degrade or completely interrupt the light transmission. I forget the temperature point, but it was some very low but not unheard of temperature below zero Fahrenheit.”

You don’t have to convince me that this last scenario is a thing. That gel can crack Internet pipes in the summertime, too.

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