I have FiOS, and I’m pretty happy with the service. The FiOS router, however, pretty much sucks. There’s been long-standing reports of a limited NAT table on the Actiontec routers, which leads to some pretty significant performance degradation over a relatively short period of time. I’ve noticed that it becomes overwhelmed when I’m streaming short shows from Netflix on my second-gen AppleTV, or long YouTube videos, and I’m not even bringing up what it’s like if I watch a feature-length flick. A temporary fix is to reboot the Actiontec router that Verizon provides, but after a day or two we’re back in the same boat.
Further, the router has limited uPnP and Bonjour support which leads to flaky AppleTV streaming from computers or other iOS devices. Bonjour printer discovery just doesn’t work, nor does ePrint discovery. And the overall wireless signal isn’t great. Again, the router sucks.
The fact that I noticed these issues, researched the root cause, and am inclined to fix the issue puts me into a very small group of people. And and most of us in this group would solve it the same way: use your own router. Sadly, it’s not an easy thing to do. Some features of the FiOS TV service, like Video on Demand and Remote DVR scheduling, run on an IP network across coax cable, called MoCA. The MoCA network uses the Actiontec router to get to the Internet for Video on Demand and as a connection point for the remote DVR manager (both using the iPhone/Android app and the FiOS website). So the Actiontec needs to stay online, connected to the coax network.
Marco Arment has a pretty good rundown of how to use your own router, but since he doesn’t have FiOS TV service, he stops short of a full solution for those of us who want our Video On Demand and remote DVR scheduling (from the iPhone/Android app or the web site) to continue to work. I’ll show you how I handled this.
Disclaimer: Follow my instructions at your own risk. Seriously. Your. Own. Risk.
- ONT (Optical Network Terminal): The big white box that Verizon installed in your house. Mine is in my basement. It’s where the fiber terminates in your home and is converted to other media (phone, coax, and ethernet).
- Actiontec router: I have the standard-issue MI424WR.
- Primary Router: The one you want to be your primary router when we’re all said and done. I’m using an AirPort Extreme. I’m going to assume you are, too.
- NAT Router: You’ll need another (Yes, a third router) to do NAT translations from the MoCA network to your LAN. I picked up a Linksys E1000 from Amazon, and installed DD-WRT. I’ll assume you’ve done the same.
- Several (at least 4) straight-through Ethernet cables. Don’t pay crazy prices for them. They’re cheap from Monoprice, or really easy to make.
There’s no reason this shouldn’t work with other routers or software. I’ve tested with the AirPort Extreme and the E1000 running DD-WRT, so I’m documenting as such, but you could very well run other hardware and software while applying the same concepts.
The design of the network is complex for your typical home network. But, if you’ve read this far, you’re a geek and we often have atypical setups. Don’t worry, you’re among friends, here.
I used this post as a starting point, but I made a few modification for ease-of-installation and scalability.
Let’s start with the ONT. Out of the box, your Actiontec is plugged into the coax port on the ONT, and there’s nothing plugged into the ONT’s ethernet port. Verizon actually leaves the ethernet port disabled, unless you call them to have it turned on.
In the end, you’re going to leave the Actiontec plugged into the coax port, but you’ll have Verizon turn on the ethernet port. The ethernet port will connect to your AirPort Extreme’s WAN interface. One of the LAN ports on your AirPort Extreme will connect to the WAN port on your E1000, which will have one of its LAN ports connected to the WAN ethernet port of the Actiontec. It’ll look like this: