Posted on Wed 04 October 2017

switching ISPs

I was a customer of RCN for seven years. The service was fine, in the really boring way that you want commodity services to be. There were occasional glitches, and a few months where the internet service was particularly bad due to our house being at the end of a cable run.

The price slowly creeped up.

Last week, the bill read over $180. Clearly time for a change.

I called up RCN before work, and the helpful customer service rep worked for about 20 minutes to eventually offer me a change of phone service that would knock $10 off the bill. I asked if the offers for new customers could be applied to our account. He said no. I pointed out that (as he had read off a screen at the beginning of the call) we had been customers for seven years. No? No.

It turns out we live in one of the very few cities in the USA where there is almost a competitive market for internet services. My house can get bandwidth from RCN, Verizon FiOS, Comcast, and probably half- a-dozen less well-known companies.

Verizon let me order service online: phone, some TV channels, and a “gigabit” internet feed, with actual likely speeds in the 800-950 Mb/s range. They offered an install date as soon as four days away. And the price was about $100/month, including taxes and fees and fees that look like taxes and fees that are just extra profits.

No nightmares ensued.

Now the technical parts, for those inclined:

A single-mode fiber cable is brought into the house through the wall and connected to a grey telco box. The back half of the box is just a cable manager to allow the extra fiber to be coiled up nicely. The front half contains the equivalent of a cable modem: an Optical Network Terminal, which takes the fiber interface and breaks out gigabit ethernet, coaxial cable (for TV, carrying mostly clear QAM), and analog telephone interfaces. On top of the box they put a CyberPower UPS with a bunch of non-rechargeable? D-cells.

Verizon will mandate the sale of a “router”, which is, technically, a router, firewall, four port gigabit ethernet switch and two wifi radios in a box. You need this during the install to accept their legalese, which of course I did not read. The MAC address is printed on the back or bottom: I wrote that down.

When the installer left, I configured up a spare gigabit port on my real firewall router. I set the mac address to be the same as the VZ-supplied gizmo, set the queue discipline to FQ_CODEL, and asked a DHCP client to request address and routing info, but not DNS or other weird things, on that interface. Finally I told the firewall that this was an external interface, not a trustworthy internal interface, and moved the ethernet cable from the VZ box to my firewall.

Everything worked smoothly.

My DNS provider can accept changes via a dynamic client, so I set that up. My IPv6 tunnel provider can do the same - yes, really! - so I did that. They both worked very well.

I leased a VM to act as a proxy if I needed one for inbound traffic; doesn’t look too necessary now.

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