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I am fortunate to live on an area that I have a few options for Internet Service Providers. Of the Comcast, AT&T, and WOW options that can choose from, I have been a happy WOW customer for years.

Their service is cheap and relatively reliable. They have rolled out some free speed upgrades in my area. I started as a customer back in 2015 paying for 25 Mbps down, and now, still paying roughtly the same rate, give me 200 Mbps down.

That would be great and all, except for the infrastructure upgrades WOW has done over the past year or so resulted in random outages that appear to be localized to my house. Calling tech support only results in wasted troubleshooting time and being told a technician would have to be dispatched to find the problem. Since the problem pretty consistently resolves itself after 3-12 hours, this would be a waste of time and the minimum $50 for a tech visit. Additionally, it only seems to show up when it’s raining outside. So unless I can schedule a technician to show up during a rainstorm, I don’t think they’re going to be able to diagnose the problem.

According to Motorola, my cable modem’s manufacturer, the upstream levels should be 37 to 48 dBmV for my 4 downstream channels. Mine was averaging 55 dBmV! The equivalent of my modem “screaming” at WOW and them just barely hearing it.

Cable modem’s channel info, pre-upgrade

So how do you get those numbers down? The same way you increase volume of your own voice in a noisy situation, an amplifier. Whereas a human voice can use a megaphone or microphone and speakers to increase its volume, a cable modem needs an amplifier with active return to increase its signal back to the ISP. The active return is the important part, that is the bit of tech that actually shouts back to WOW. An amp by itself only increases incoming signal, kind of like only wearing a hearing aid.

A few Youtube videos and web searches later and I’d made up my mind on the PCT-MA-81010-1A. Simple, cheap, and available. The device arrived quickly and without issue, I’d recommend doing business with PCT without hesistation.

The PCT-MA-81010-1A with Active Return

Biggest problem I encountered once I received the device was figuring out what ends to connect to which coax cables. The power coax was pretty self-evident, but the end to connect to my cable modem and the end to connect to the utility were less so. Fortunately I was able to find the answer on some YouTube channel.

Below, you can see that my upstream power levels are a good 10dBmV lower than without the amp.

Success! Ideal Power levels on upstream channels.

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