Setting up new AT&T Internet service
December 6, 2010 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Please help me avoid calling AT&T tech support. Question about setting up modem for new Internet-only service from AT&T.

I previously had DSL through AT&T, bundled with phone service. Canceled both over a year ago, but am now letting Demon Internet back into the house. Signed up for U-verse Internet only (i.e., no phone or TV through AT&T). Service is activated tonight.

AT&T sent me their $75 modem (which they charged me $75 for). Turns out that the $75 modem doesn't do wireless -- it's ethernet only. We have two laptops in the house. Don't want no ethernet.

I have the old AT&T DSL modem, which had a built-in wireless router. (Is 'router' the right word? Maybe it was a wireless 'modem'? I do not speak Geek.) Can I use it with the new service?

Searching through previous AskMe questions led me to this support document about how to set up a 3rd party modem, so I'm assuming that using an older 2wire modem from AT&T should work as well. I know I can call them and ask, but I'm only expecting them to try to sell me the $125 "U-verse Gateway" which networks computers and controls your TV and all that crap I don't need.
posted by mudpuppie to Computers & Internet (23 answers total)
Best answer: Buy a linksys wireless router for like $30 from any computer retailer. Call AT&T and ask them to put their modem into 'bridge mode'. Connect the Internet port on the router to one of the ethernet ports on their modem.

Configure the wireless on the linksys.
posted by empath at 10:01 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

The reason to do it that way, is that it's a pain in the ass to get decent support for 3rd party modems from an ISP. Leave their equipment in place and that way if something breaks, you can just plug your laptop directly into their modem to test.
posted by empath at 10:02 AM on December 6, 2010

What's the model number of the AT&T modem that you just got? There are two different flavors of U-verse Internet service. One involves a dumb modem, and one involves a modem that includes a router. With the dumb modem, you're best off buying a wireless router. With the modem/router combo, you're best off buying a wireless access point. A wireless router will also work, but the U-verse box sometimes likes to complain about such a setup.

There are basically three parts to the whole getting-the-internet-into-your-laptop equation: the modem (converts the phone company's signals), the router (aka gateway, allows multiple devices to share one connection), and the wireless access point (broadcasts a wireless signal). Sometimes all three devices are combined into one box, like your old AT&T box. Sometimes the modem and the router are combined, which some U-verse boxes are like. Most "wireless gateways" that you buy combine the router and the access point.
posted by zsazsa at 10:09 AM on December 6, 2010

Instead of getting a router, why not just get a cheapo WAP from a brick-and-mortar store? That is by-default in bridge mode.

Or you could use that wireless router mentioned above and put it in bridge mode, too. No need to call AT&T to put their modem in bridge mode.
posted by swhitt at 10:18 AM on December 6, 2010

The reason I say to call AT&T if you're going to switch it to bridge mode, is that if it doesn't work your internet is down. If you aren't pretty comfortable with modems, etc, it's better to have them either do it for you or walk you through it, imo.
posted by empath at 10:19 AM on December 6, 2010

Long story short, if you don't want to deal with phone support or learn any geek, call ATT back and say you want to exchange the DSL modem you have for a combo modem/wifi router.

Modem vs. Router. Modem gets one external IP address for internet access through ATT, can pass it on to only one device.
Router takes one external IP address and divides it out into several internal IP addresses, allowing multiple devices to use a single internet connection as well communicate with each other (like one phone number with many extensions); may or may not do this wirelessly.

I bet your old box is a combination DSL modem and wireless router; it does both. You could use that and only have one piece of ATT-provided equipment to troubleshoot if or when you have a problem.

Your current unit is just a modem with one phone line in and one Ethernet out? You can connect that Out to the In of any wireless router you like and have the same effect, plus full control over all the settings of your home wireless network. But first you'll have to put the modem into "bridge mode" (= 'do nothing but pass the internet connection on to my router and I'll take it from there').

Unfortunately, you'll need some information from ATT that they don't usually give you. So you'll have to either call them and get that information so you can do it yourself, or have them send a technician out to you.

If you want to use your old combo modem/wireless router, call ATT and ask them to walk you through the configuration of whatever the model# on the bottom or back is. This is one of those cases where all the support person has is a binder with step by step instructions which is fine, because that' - and the right set of numbers to fill in as you go - is all you need.

Same goes if you want to buy your own wireless router. Read the router's instructions and be familiar with it, then call ATT and give them the model# of your modem and say you want them to walk you through putting it in 'bridge mode" to use with your own router.
posted by bartleby at 10:38 AM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the info so far. I did do an online chat with AT&T (less painful than having to call them) and sure enough, they gave me the number for their sales department.

So, looks like buying either a wireless router or a "cheapo WAP" is the way to go. Can y'all further explain the difference between the two, and advise me on which would be better? Also, what's the difference between an N wireless router and a G wireless router? I'm finding both online.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:18 AM on December 6, 2010

Wireless N is faster and has more range, but it's more expensive, and not all wireless cards support it yet.

As far as wap/router/gateway/modem goes, they all combine different functions in different ways.

A modem just provides a link to the internet and a single ip address from your isp.

A router let's multiple computers share a single ip address through a feature called NAT.

An WAP (wireless access point) provides wireless access to your network, but isn't a router or a modem.

If you get a gateway modem, then it's both a modem and a router, so all you need is a wireless Access point.

If you have a modem in bridge mode, it disables the router functionality, so you would need to buy a wireless router, not an access point.

Or you can just get a gateway modem that has wireless built in and it does all of it in one.

If you buy a wireless router, then you should have a bridged modem.
posted by empath at 11:33 AM on December 6, 2010

(sorry, ignore the last line, it's redundant)
posted by empath at 11:33 AM on December 6, 2010

Best answer: OK, deducing from the fact that you have Uverse, bought your modem, and that it is not wireless, it is a Motorola 2210-02-1ATT. It doesn't come in bridged mode by default, but it looks like this is how to put it into bridged mode. Then you can use any wireless router.
posted by zsazsa at 11:52 AM on December 6, 2010

If you previously had at&t's not-Uverse service and now have at&t's Uverse service, you cannot use the old modem. The old modem does ADSL. The new one uses VDSL. You might as well try to use a cable modem for all the good the old one would do.

If it's anything like the cisco they hand out with TV service, you can set it to pass the public IP through to your router so as to avoid the NAT but still have the modem terminate the PPPoE session. You don't want to use bridged mode if you can avoid it. The PPPoE stacks in most consumer wireless routers aren't all that great, in my experience.

If it doesn't have that setting, that's OK, too, it's just a personal preference of mine to have PPPoE out of the mix as soon as possible. I think it's the spawn of the devil.
posted by wierdo at 12:17 PM on December 6, 2010

When I said cisco I meant 2wire, by the way. The STBs are made by cisco, the router/modem is 2wire.
posted by wierdo at 12:18 PM on December 6, 2010

If it's anything like the cisco they hand out with TV service, you can set it to pass the public IP through to your router so as to avoid the NAT but still have the modem terminate the PPPoE session. You don't want to use bridged mode if you can avoid it. The PPPoE stacks in most consumer wireless routers aren't all that great, in my experience.

That IS bridge mode.
posted by empath at 12:31 PM on December 6, 2010

No, bridge mode means the DSL modem does not do PPPoE on the modem. It bridges the stuff coming in on the WAN port directly over to the Ethernet port. (well, not literally directly, it actually removes any previous Ethernet or ATM encapsulation and spits PPPoE out the ethernet port)

DSL works like this if the PPPoE tunnel is terminated on the modem (U-Verse is the same, but uses native Ethernet frames rather than ATM over the VDSL link)
Access concentrator <------> DSLAM <-[ATM]-> Your modem <--[Ethernet]--> Your router
 |                                              |
  --------------[PPPoE "tunnel"]-----------------
In bridge mode, it works like this, because the modem is acting as a dumb bridge:
Access concentrator <------> DSLAM <-[ATM]-> Your modem <--[Ethernet]--> Your router
 |                                                                         |
  ----------------------------[PPPoE "tunnel"]-----------------------------
In the first scenario, your modem is assigned an IP address by the access concentrator as part of the negotiation of the PPP link (it works exactly like dialup, in that way). Your modem then, if it is configured to do so, assigns that IP to your router using DHCP and gets out of the way.

In the second, your router negotiates the PPP link directly with the access concentrator and the modem isn't actually doing anything except converting VDSL to Ethernet.

If someone has gone and started calling the first one "bridge mode," they've confused the terminology.
posted by wierdo at 1:10 PM on December 6, 2010

I spend half my day supporting dslams, and I can assure that if a customer asked us to put their modem in bridge mode, I'd know exactly what they meant.
posted by empath at 1:51 PM on December 6, 2010

I guess it depends on the modem, though. The important thing is that the mac address gets bridged over and the modem isn't acting as a router. Most modems call one mode Gateway and the other mode Bridged.
posted by empath at 1:53 PM on December 6, 2010

Best answer: A WAP or Wireless Access Point is a device that sends and recieves wireless data traffic and passes it on to whatever networking infrastructure you've got. A router is a manager for networked data traffic. If you were running a corporate campus, you'd have an inventory of separate WAPs located around the place connected to routers and a bunch of other gear back at the data center HQ to manage. But if you just go to a consumer electronics store and pick up a wireless router, that's a simple WAP and router put together in one box, and it's all you need.

As for the lettters associated with wireless, you're unlikely to notice a difference except in price. N is newer, and sends its wireless signal farther and can carry more bits of data per second. G is a bit older, and is thus compatible with older gear that might have been made before N came out; before G was B, and A was before that, all incremental improvements.

Since you're going to be limited to the speed of your internet connection, which is much slower than G anyway, buying N networking gear won't make your internet noticeably faster. N gear will cost more, but the extra bucks are only worth it if a) you're transferring a lot of data in real time between devices within your network, such as if you put a DVD in one computer but play the movie on another computer - b) you need to broadcast your wifi signal far enough that you can use your connection while sitting around your neighbor's pool - c) the N wifi router looks really sexy, or has some special feature that you can't find on a cheaper G wifi router. One such common feature is a USB port built into the router, so you can access a USB memory device from all of the computers on your wireless network instead of plugging it in to any one of them individually.

Maybe worth it to you, maybe not; but it's fairly rare for most home users to make use of the extra internal-network-traffic capacity that they paid extra for by buying N instead of G. Remember, your downloads from the internet are only ever going to be as fast as your internet connection, regardless of how fast your home network is. But N devices will be backwards-compatible with G devices, so there's no harm in buying the deluxe model.
posted by bartleby at 2:23 PM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help, folks. Headed home with a wireless G Linksys router from the campus bookstore (about the same price as buying online), as well as instructions from the helpful links you provided.

I also know slightly more than I did this morning, so thanks for that too.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:35 PM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: All right, I'm back. Back to square one, a little bit.

I set up the Motorola 2210 modem without incident, got connected to the internet, and got so far as to get my AT&T account registration info filled out.

I then proceeded to (attempt to) set up the wireless router. However, I forgot to put the modem into bridge mode first (which may or may not be relevant).

The router had a set-up CD. One of the first questions it asked was along the lines of "I see you're already connected to a router. Do you want to replace the existing router, or would you like to use both?"

That was a stumper. I wasn't sure if the router in question was the modem (which doesn't have a wireless router, as I understand it) or some router that was previously installed. I should have Googled, but I punted instead. I believe I chose option 1 the first time, then reconsidered, quit the setup application, and retried with option 2. (Except I don't remember which option was 1 and which was 2. Don't remember how I ultimately tried to proceed with installation -- just remember that I did try both.)

At this point, the installation made no further progress. I waited for 20-30 minutes, but only got the colorful, spinning wheel that the Mac uses to implore patience. I quit the setup application, restarted the computer, and tried to start over.

HOWEVER, at that point, I discovered that I no longer had an active ethernet connection. All of the lights on the modem were solid green, except for the Ethernet light. That connection was active and working before I attempted to install the router.

This was two nights ago. Last night, I cycled the power on the modem (several times), unplugged and reconnected both the Internet and Ethernet cables, and eventually reset the modem (several times) using the button on the back. No good -- I still can't get an active Ethernet connection.

I have since decided that the better way for me to go is to get the AT&T wireless modem (which is on its way) and return the Linksys router. So, that will eventually solve the problem, I hope. BUT, I'm wondering now if the aborted router installation might have changed some setting on my computer that's making it unable to access the internet.


1.) Is this a modem problem, or a computer problem? If the Ethernet connection were active, would the Ethernet light be solid green regardless of whether the modem was connected to a computer? Because it's not -- it's unlit whether a computer is present or not.
2.) Are there any settings on the MacBook that I should investigate?

I'd at least like to be able to access the Internet through the Ethernet connection while I wait for the wireless modem to arrive in a few days.

Thanks again for the help. Hoping this question isn't too old for the smart people to find it.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:42 PM on December 8, 2010

Yeah this is kind of why I said to call at&t when you do this. If you don't have everything exactly right, your Internet won't work. Call at&t, tell them you need help setting up a linkage router. They should be very familiar with setting those up.
posted by empath at 2:35 PM on December 8, 2010

Linkage=linksys. Stupid iPhone
posted by empath at 2:35 PM on December 8, 2010

Response by poster: Not going to set up the router -- just want to figure out how to get the modem working again.

And as for Tech Support, the service wasn't activated until 8 p.m. Monday night. When I called some time later to ask Tech Support what I'd done wrong, they were already closed. :(
posted by mudpuppie at 2:41 PM on December 8, 2010

Trying to install the router shouldn't have affected the Mac's network settings, so there shouldn't be a problem with the computer. As far as the modem is concerned, once it's defaulted it should be out of bridge mode. One thing that you can do to confirm the problem one way or the other would be to bring the router back out, plug it in, and plug both devices in to test connectivity.

If you decide to try this, plug both devices (modem and computer) into the LAN port on the router as opposed to the WAN, as those ports will autodetect their settings and give the best chance of verifying that there isn't a hardware failure. Don't try to reconfigure the router, etc, just use it to verify the ethernet connectivity.

As far as a possible easy fix, one other thing to try out...make sure that you are using the same ethernet cable that came with the modem initially and not one of the ones that came with the router. The pinouts between them may be different and will cause the connection to fail. I tried looking at the 2210 manual but it doesn't say for sure whether the ethernet port is MDIx supported, so the cable that might have come with it could be a crossover.

If you can confirm that you've got lights on your ethernet connections in both directions while using the router, then it should be possible to set up a band-aid solution in the meantime by configuring the router as a pass-through just to get to the modem and modify its configuration.
posted by youngergirl44 at 3:13 PM on December 8, 2010

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