Despite over a decade of networking experience, I spent two hours on the phone this past weekend with my sister as she attempted to setup a wireless router with her Verizon DSL. Needless to say, it didn’t go as expected. Here’s what we learned…
First, a bit of background info. There are three types of authentication that Verizon can use:
A) DHCP only — Verizon reads your current MAC address and assigns an IP address
B) PPPoE only — A username/password is required, but MAC address is ignored
C) Both PPPoe and DHCP
Like many other Verizon users, I initially setup MAC address cloning on our router, expecting to trick Verizon’s servers. I then setup PPPoE and thought we would be done. No go!
As noted on the Practically Networked forums, there is no need to clone the MAC address. In fact, don’t do that; it’s wasted effort and can wreak havoc between the cloned device and router. Unlike many cable companies, Verizon doesn’t care about your modem’s MAC address. The address is used only for the length of the IP address lease, which is just a few hours. If you tell the modem to release its assigned IP address, Verizon will instantly accept another modem/MAC address. Releasing the IP is easy to do from the modem configuration page, by the way.
Verizon provided us with a Westell 6100 DSL modem. Like many modern DSL modems, the Westell 6100 has an internal router which must be disabled (aka, “bridged”) for proper NAT routing. You can use a router behind a router, but this leads to numerous problems (impossibly blocked ports, broken VPNs, etc.). Anyway, Verizon has a seemingly simple tutorial describing how to bridge the Westell 6100, so that these problems can be avoided. Unfortunately, the tutorial isn’t entirely accurate…
Our most important discovery of the day: Verizon uses different authentication methods in different regions of the country. My sister lives in Tampa, FL; several folks on various message boards claimed that Verizon employs PPPoE + DHCP in this area. This led to our demise–although she has a username and password with Verizon for e-mail and billing, her Verizon DSL does not use PPPoE. Verizon’s own tutorial (above) even alludes that PPPoE is used. It was not for us.
Call Verizon tech support to find out which type of configuration your DSL line uses. It only took 5 minutes on the phone to obtain this critical piece of information. Granted, had I been in front of the PC myself, I probably would’ve gathered this info from the start by looking through the Westell’s configuration/status page.
No matter which authentication method your Verizon line uses, the Westell 6100 needs to be bridged. If using PPPoE only, enter your account credentials in your router (after releasing the connection and bridging the Westell 6100). If your DSL uses DHCP only, release the DSL and bridge the Westell 6100, but set your router to Automatic-DHCP instead of PPPoE. Routers are generally set by default for Automatic-DHCP negotiation.
Due to my sister’s technical ignorance, we ended up ditching the Westell 6100. Older DSL modems (ie, those without built-in routers) can be used as long as they use the same VPI/VCI settings. So, we connected an old SpeedStream 5360, previously used with AT&T DSL service. Her router immediately established a connection to Verizon with the old SpeedStream. These modems can be found for hardly $10 on eBay. Just make sure to disconnect/release the Westell 6100 first.