Sunday, January 20, 2013

Adventures in crappy engineering: The FIOS ONT won't power up if its backup battery is dead, even if AC is fine

Now that's a handful for a title, but that's about what just happened to me: the Verizon FIOS ONT has a built-in battery that it uses as a backup for its phone lines. If there is a power outage, this makes sure that you will be able to use the phone for about 8 hours.

It doesn't help the TV and Internet signals, it is simply used for the phones. And if the battery goes bad, or the ONT "thinks" that the battery is bad, the ONT will refuse to power up even if the AC current source is healthy.

So there I was, being held hostage by a device that relies on a battery, for a service I don't subscribe to, with healthy AC power and no way to keep my Internet connection up for more than two minutes in a row, and every 5 minutes or so it would drop completely dead until I reset the ONT.

And of course, the perfect time of the day for neither of our cell phones to get a decent 3G connection so we could Google it.

After about a long miserable hour I was able to find troubleshooting threads that suggested that the problem was the battery itself, so I tried to Google THAT and see where I could find one. No luck there. If I wanted that exact battery I would need to order it and wait days, or pay a ton of money to have it shipped overnight.  Verizon's own price was much higher than what others were quoting, but their shipping fees were much more reasonable so I was able to order it with some kind of next-day upgrade for about $52 including tax. Other sources would quote me $20-$30 for the battery then turn around and quote $50 or more to overnight it.


As I was making my order, I did one more desperate thing: unplugged the ONT, unplugged the battery and let the unit sit for a few minutes. That was three hours ago and it hasn't blinked once, so I don't know if the fix was in disconnecting both items or if it was Karma screwing with me for ordering the battery.

It could be worse, at least I got it working before PJ went into a full-blast meltdown.

I am not even annoyed at the battery going bad, things like that are to be expected. But it annoys me that the unit can't run without it, even if it is only using systems that can't benefit from it. Verizon could also have sent me an automatic email on the date that warranty coverage expired to either upsell me to whatever service plan they got to cover this, or to warn me about the battery and how to order one if this one died.

Update (2/24/215): It's been two years since I got the second battery for our FIOS ONT. The original battery was OK. Every now and then, especially after a power outage, the ONT will bitch about the battery so we switch it for the spare one. This goes back and forth every few months.