Now that this is all over, I can look back and laugh (and blog about it).
This might end up as a long post, so here’s my outline to help you determine if it’s worth reading:
- Evan has cable modem already, and is paying way too much for it
- Evan gets a letter advertising a good deal on DSL
- Evan rejiggers the wiring closet to accommodate DSL in place of cable modem
- Evan orders DSL and receives the hardware
- Evan spends an entire weekend trying to get DSL to work right
- Evan gets pissed and sends back the DSL stuff
Ok, that’s a fair timeline, I suppose. Let’s drill in!
I got a good deal on cable-modem when we first moved into the condo. Something like 1/2 price for a couple of months and then $10 off each month for a couple more. We could have gotten a similar deal on DSL at first, also, I have no doubt. But because of the way our condo is wired, it would have been harder to do DSL right away (short version: if you only have one Cat5 plug where the DSL modem needs to go, how do you get both the DSL in and the Ethernet out).
In any event, we’ve had cable modem for 9 months or so. It’s worked fine: fast, only a couple outages, etc. Our cable company (Millennium Digital Media) is not the best I’ve ever had, particularly for customer service when things go down, but they contract their NNTP through giganews which provides a much better feed than Time Warner ever did back in Charlotte.
So why try to change? Well, MDM charges $49/month for cable modem. And that’s $49/month *IF* you have your own cable modem (which, after paying $7.50 extra for a month or so… we now do!). So it’s hella-expensive. I think I paid $42/month *INCLUDING* cable modem rental in Charlotte. And for my $49/month I get 2–3mb down and 256kb up. Not stellar.
When Qwest (DSL) sent me the advert, I thought to myself… hmm… I can switch over to DSL with just a bit of rewiring in the wiring closet, I can end up with 1.5mb down + 768kb up, and I can do it for $19.95/month (I think it would have actually been $24.95/month… the advert was not clear) for a year.
How can you pass that up?! So I ordered it online, waited a couple of days, and received a box from Qwest with my new DSL modem.
It took me about 10 minutes to swap the Actiontec DSL modem Qwest had sent in for our Dlink cable modem.
Right away, any of you with Qwest DSL should be thinking to yourself…wait a second… an actiontec DSL “modem”?? Right. It’s actually an actiontec DSL “modem+wireless router”. And therein lies the rub:
- Qwest requires PPPoA, (the “A” stands for ATM). This is roughly the equivalent of PPPoE, except that my existing router doesn’t support it (nor does any other router I’ve ever owned). PPPoA (or E) is what is used by Qwest to force you to authenticate across their DSL loop to the actual ISP who services your connection. See, for DSL – at least here – the DSL loop and ISP are decoupled.
- The actiontec device is a router, not just a modem. It’s not just terminating the loop. It’s actually authenticating my account to the ISP and being given an IP address.
- Then the actiontec works just like any other router you might buy to issue out NAT addresses (192.168.0.x) to a device on the one ethernet port.
- Qwest doesn’t support it being used in any other way
So, in case that bullet list isn’t clear, here’s the shorter version: I couldn’t just drop in the DSL modem/router as a replacement for my cable modem have it work.
Drat. Ok, I’m resourceful. I rejiggered the configuration on stuff now in addition to the physical layout changes. Tried using the DMZ function of the actiontec router. Tried turning off all of the authentication on the actiontec (‘transparent bridging’) and doing the authentication from my existing router. Tried replacing my existing router with just the actiontec (and configured the various port forwarding, etc).
The last part “sort of” worked. But it broke a lot of configuration for my internal network. For instance, I could no longer connect to my website directly from the inside. With my previous setup, when it resolved the domain name “www.doddsnet.com” to whatever is the outside IP, my router would let me connect basically right through outbound, turn around, and port-forward it back to the inside. Worked great. But not with the actiontec. No matter what I tried to turn off on the actiontec, the web administration stuff kept coming up.
So I had to set up split-DNS and host the “doddsnet” domain internally to my router in addition to the outside view. Suck.
Plus, inbound mail kept getting queued up irregularly. The port 25 forwarding didn’t seem to work well on the actiontec. Totally not sure why this was. I just know that after leaving it running for an afternoon, I came home knowing that it wasn’t working since a bunch of “test” email I had sent inbound had never arrived. I swapped back in the cable modem and the original software configuration and POOF it all started working again (and all the queued mail delivered).
By this point, I had spent all day Saturday and 1/2 day Sunday working on this. I had called Qwest four times and spent probably close to an hour and a half on the phone with them. As a final effort, they suggested I get a static IP. But after doing some research, they returned to the line to inform me that not only could I not get a static IP on the deal that I was on, but that it wouldn’t solve the problem (getting a real IP address to my router) anyways because of PPPoA.
Whew, long post. I’m proud of anyone who makes it this far.
My summary: I’m quite disappointed that Qwest has the technical limitations that they do around their DSL solution. It’s a shame they use PPPoA. It’s a shame they cram a router down my throat instead of providing a transparently-bridged DSL modem like BellSouth did for me when I last had DSL a few years back. It’s a shame their technical support people have to deal with the ideosyncracies of a bunch of different ISPs, each with different features and behavior. It’s a shame.