Verizon FiOS and PfSense Redux



  • For those of you who are considering getting Verizon FiOS service… The first thing you should do is read about the terrible atrocity that is the Actiontec MI424WR router that they force 'ahem' give you to use with the service. If you are considering getting FiOS TV you will HAVE to use this router. The only way to get FiOS TV is to utilize the MoCA capability via coax. This means all your internet packets will travel down a coaxial cable to the ONT. The theoretical bandwidth on it is 220-240 MB but after protocol overhead, error correction, and retransmits, you get roughly 90-100. So it's no better than your standard Cat 5e cable. In fact it's worse.... You have a much higher latency (10-20 ms just from the MoCA ethernet encapsulation) as opposed to 1-2 ms for the true ethernet connection.

    Now you may be scratching your head in wonderment? Why would I ever want such a contraption? Well it comes with fast (as in up to 50 MB/s internet) capabilities. However you have other options. If you can do without the buggy motorola fios tv boxes with a front end written by M1cr0s0ft, then you can get FiOS internet installed via ethernet (like me...). This grants you the ability to use ANY router you wish. (ahem, rah rah pfSense). While it's not a standard install now (all installs are now MoCA), you can request that the technician re-provision your box for ethernet. It's quick, takes a 2 minute configuration on his part, and a 5 minute phone call. As long as you can do without FiOS TV this will work.

    It should be noted that most technicians may be hesitant to set this up if you do not already have an easy access Cat 5 cable for him to utilize upon his arrival. They went to MoCA to utilize existing cable company installed cables (yeah I know, it's cheap and cheesy, and often cable companies plain do a $%@%$# job cabling in the first place), but they did it to cut installation costs (read the shareholders mandated that they cut costs).

    On to making this work with your non-actiontrash router.... The first thing you will notice upon connecting your nice shiny super high throughput pfsense router is... it doesn't work. The ONT (network box connected to the fiber on the side of your house) locks onto the mac address of the actiontrash router your kind installer kindly setup for you and gives it a DHCP IP address.

    Now many people have incorrectly assumed that verizon locks you to this one mac address. In fact this is NOT the case. It is just the basic fact that the ONT has a LONG memory (read 2-4 hours), and may require a physical power reset to facilitate grabbing your new Mac address. Many Verizon DSL customers will attest to the fact that it's easier to just clone the Mac address of their supplied router than waiting for them to 'forget' what the old Mac address was. At this point I am unsure if you have to just wait for a short DHCP lease expiration or if it is truly the ONT being ornery. If it's the ONT, it may vary by model as I do not have the 1000 series motorola ONT.

    For me, I simply unplugged the old Actiontec router in the morning, plugged in the new shiny super fast and configurable pfSense router, and went to work. When I came home it was working (after a minor firmware update). I would recommend running the latest march or later snapshots to get this working.

    So basically, as long as you configure your pfsense box for DHCP on the wan side (no new installs will EVER be PPOE again, so I'm told), you're golden. Just have patience and it will work. Or if you're brave, and adventurous, (and don't try this at home kids), put the UPS they provide you in service mode, yank the batter, then unplug it so the ONT power's off. Then make the necessary router adjustments and power everything back on.

    Think of the ONT as your 'DSL' modem that needs a swift kick in the rear...

    Anyways, for those out there with FiOS access, or about to get FiOS, consider your choices carefully. I myself am waiting for the day when MoCA is NOT required and or I can still get my internet via ethernet and use FiOS TV with an non-buggy motorola tv box. Until then I'm a sat guy, with a proud pole mounted slimline directv dish in the back yard.

    Enjoy the speed, flexibility, and real power your pfSense box provides you on FiOS.

    Now... back to seeing how much bandwidth I can suck out of this pipe!

    p.s. Just FYI, almost everyone in my neighborhood apparently has FiOS internet, but half the houses have Dish/DirecTV DBS sat dishes.. That should tell you something about FiOS tv service...



  • Wow, this is great info to know about FiOS.  I had no idea!  :o

    In my area of the Left Coast, we don't have Verizon FiOS, but we have Paxio FTTH (fiber to the home).  I opted for the 100M/100M service, although less expensive plans are available (http://www.paxio.com).  My biggest problem has been building a router that will support the full bandwidth of the connection!  Right now I'm on a mini-ITX platform with an Intel dual-NIC card and it's doing pretty well:


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