DNS Alive Again. My FIOS story.

I had Verizon FIOS a few years ago when we lived on Roosevelt Island and I loved it. It is considerably faster than DSL or Cablemodem. When I learned our new apartment could get FIOS (for Internet / TV / Phone) I decided (well in advance of moving) to get it. There was a slight mishap with the installer not showing up, but that was probably because I changed the order somewhat late (adding TV, Phone to the order). Oh well. The installation went pretty smoothly (although several days late). The service worked, as advertised, right from the outset giving me almost 20 megabits down and 4 megabits up (which is pretty fast).

The problems appeared a couple days later about 10 minutes after I hooked up my desktop PC and changed the wireless settings to a more secure configuration. I didn’t appear I was getting any Internet traffic at all. I determined there must be an outage so I called Verizon tech support. They had me go through the normal steps (reboot, etc.) but we determined pretty quickly the problem was at the router. While there was connectivity, my router wasn’t passing DNS. A hard reset of the router solved the problem. I hoped it was an isolated incident.

Not long after this I determined that this problem occurred (the router losing the ability to server DNS) 1 – 20 minutes after I connected my desktop PC (a specific computer). Highter internet traffic seemed to make the problem occur faster. The router would happy talk to the Internet, but it just wouldn’t resolve names (so I could go to the web site but I couldn’t go to http://www.google.com/).  It was definitely something that only occured when my desktop machine was connected and fixing it required a hard reset of the router. This happened when the desktop machine was connected to the router on absolutely any port and with any Ethernet cable.

“Just in case” I did full virus, spyware, etc. scans of the desktop machine but I firmly believe there is nothing the computer should be able to do to make the router stop passing DNS. I have since talked to several Verizon techs (and network folk in general) and they all agree on this point. For what it’s worth, my PC got a clean bill of health.

I talked to Verizon again on Thursday and we came to the conclusion it was either an inherent problem in the Actiontec router or it was a problem with that specific unit. He over-nighted me a replacement router. The “new” router appeared last night and it quickly exhibited the same problems. I called Verizon and that tech strongly doubted the problem was the router and insisted it must be my machine, despite the fact that that machine worked correctly for years with my Linksys WRT54G router.

Knowing (from previous conversations with Verizon) that I could have Verizon switch the FIOS ONT (Optical Network Terminal, where FIOS comes into the apartment) from passing Internet on coaxial cable (the FIOS default) to Ethernet, which would allow me to remove their Actiontec router from the mix and allow me to use my own Linksys router, I started investigating the Ethernet wiring that existed in my apartment. I did a bunch of reading on Cat5 cables, the specific wires in the cable that were required, and how the jack in the walk should be wired and inspected the patch panel in the closet. I determined that the Ethernet jacks were wired to the patch panel, but the jacks themselves were wired incorrectly (silly installers). I re-wired the jack (at the wall) and then attached an Ethernet cable to the patch panel and tested that the wiring in the wall was now passing from my new cable to the jack in the wall. I was all set.

I called Verizon again and asked them to switch my FIOS ONT Internet from coax to Ethernet. This took about 15 minutes. After a bit of fuss (and double checking some of my wiring) the FIOS Internet was now running through the wall to my Linksys router, the FIOS TV was running on coax (still), and I didn’t need that stupid Actiontec router any longer because my TiVo HD uses cable cards (I don’t use a Verizon Set Top Box).

I’ve now been running with FIOS via my (5+ year old) Linksys router and it is both faster and passes DNS traffic without a hitch. I am so happy to be free of that stupid Actiontec.

I wish I knew what the desktop machine was doing that the Actiontec didn’t like, but it doesn’t matter anymore.

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