Some new owners of Apple's slate computer, the iPad, are having issues with the device's Wi-Fi connection. Multiple forum postings, both on Apple's own support site and elsewhere, have users reporting that they're experiencing weak signals in an area where their other Internet-connected devices have no issues. Another common complaint, which appears to be related, is a dropped connection. Some iPads lose their connection to the Wi-Fi network, then prompt the user to re-enter the network password. But doing so doesn't work. The only "fix" seems to be either shutting Wi-Fi off and back on again via the settings, or worse, rebooting the computer...err...iPad.

Network Password?

There doesn't seem to be any determinable factor connecting the users experiencing the problems - different models of the iPad are in use, different routers, different security settings, etc. However, one name came up dozens of times in the forums: Verizon FiOS. A number of the complaints came from customers of Verizon's high-speed, fiber-to-the-curb service known as FiOS. Along with TV and phone, Verizon provides Actiontec-branded Internet routers to establish the home's Ethernet (cabled) and wireless networks.

We got in touch with the company, who had yet to hear of the problem at the time. After much research on Verizon's part, including speaking with members of their hardware teams and call center operations, it appears the issue has simply not crossed their radar.

According to Verizon's Media Relations Director, Jim Smith, the call center has not received calls from iPad owners about failed connections on the iPad, although some have phoned in for help setting up WEP security connections on the devices. He did, however, hear from one person on his team who said Apple had advised iPad owners to turn off WEP security. We could not confirm this to be the case, but it does match up with a few of the recommendations found on user forums. Those forums are hosted on Apple.com, so this is where the confusion may lie. For example, a customer reading the forums may have mistakenly assumed these were suggested fixes from Apple itself, and not from other affected users.

Smith also told us that, as of now, Verizon has no evidence that the connection issues iPad owners are experiencing are related to Verizon's broadband services in any way. iPad users among the company's own employees have also not reported any trouble, he says.

Apple Bug Resurfaces

We typically believe that statements like these are just PR gloss-overs of an issue, but in this case, we tend to believe Verizon. The reason? This Wi-Fi bug is not a new issue. It happened to iPhone users, too, when the iPhone 3.0 software, a mobile operating system upgrade released via iTunes, was launched a year ago. Several iPhone owners then experienced issues that mimic those now being reported by iPad users. In July 2009, owners of the latest iPhone, the iPhone 3GS, which had launched the prior month, also reported similar issues. Despite rumors that the fix would be included in iPhone OS 3.1 in September 2009, the issues remained. There have even been three additional minor OS upgrades since then, to no avail.

Apparently this is a bug that Apple just can't quash.

As far as we can tell right now, some people are having limited success by either disabling WEP altogether on their wireless network - not a good idea from a security perspective as it opens up your home network to public access - or by setting their routers to "G" only, when formerly set to B/G or "mixed" mode. (To the non-technical, those letters refer to wireless networking standards. "G" routers are newer than "B" routers, but older than "N" routers. Routers can broadcast in B mode, G mode, N mode or a "mixed" mode where they support connections to devices of varying ages and supported standards.) For what's it worth, neither of those workarounds resolved the issue in my tests.

Unfortunately, adjusting router settings isn't something everyday, mainstream users would think to do. Many of them buy Apple products because they're marketed as devices that "just work." Hopefully, Apple will soon live up to the image they've created for themselves and fix the Wi-Fi bug for good. In the meantime, learn how to reboot your iPad.