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How to use your own router with FiOS

New FiOS installations come with an all-in-one Actiontec router (mine’s the very common MI424WR model) that you can bypass if you want to use your own router or directly connect a computer to the raw connection. In my case, I wanted to connect Apple’s Airport Extreme router.

A quick primer on the connection:

The ONT has an Ethernet port that’s disabled in installations using coax. Usually, the installer won’t even ask you whether you’d rather have Ethernet run to the router instead — they’ll just use coax. But you may want to use it and connect your own router directly, like I did. Hey, we’re all geeks here. I understand.

Do this at your own risk. I accept no liability if you damage yourself, your house, your internet connection, your router, connected equipment, Verizon’s property, or anything else. (Lawyers.)

If you have FiOS TV service:

It’s more complicated, but it’s still possible to use your own router. You need to keep the Actiontec router alive and connected because it feeds the show-guide data to the TV boxes.

These instructions worked for me to kick the router into bridge mode, but I switched to the direct setup below.

I don’t have the TV service, so my relevant knowledge for you ends here, and the rest of this post won’t apply to you. Sorry.

If you do NOT have FiOS TV service: (regardless of phone service)

Run an Ethernet cable safely to the Ethernet port on the bottom of the ONT. How you do this is up to you.1 If you’re buying new cable or having it professionally done, run Cat6 cable — it doesn’t cost much more than Cat5 or 5e and is more future-proof for higher speeds.

If you can’t or don’t want to run an Ethernet cable to the ONT, you can keep using the coax arrangement, follow the bridge instructions above, and stop here.

OK, so now you have a cable connecting the ONT’s Ethernet port to your router.

Call FiOS support: 888-553-1555. Navigate the menus to technical support. Enjoy their on-hold music, which has been carefully engineered to be slightly pleasant yet non-offensive to the widest target demographic possible.

BE POLITE. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t be a dick — they don’t need to do this for you. You’re asking them to do you a favor to satisfy your own geeky preferences or edge-case needs, and there’s a big risk that you’re going to cause them more work if you screw with stuff too much. Most of these techs know what they’re doing, and you don’t need to aggressively prove your geek abilities to them.

Tell the tech that you’d like to change your ONT’s connection to the router from coax to Ethernet.2 If they hesitate to do it remotely or say it requires a service call, tell them nicely that you already have the Ethernet wire run and connected and you’d just like them to switch it remotely. A second-level tech might be needed to do it.

Then ask them nicely to break the router’s DHCP lease so you can plug in your own router. When they say it’s done, connect your router’s WAN port to the ONT’s Ethernet port. Your router should see the connection immediately and get a real IP address.

That’s it. You’re done. Thank the tech profusely and tell them to have a nice day.

  1. I did a quick workaround for now, which I’ll undo when I can get real wiring run: I just plugged in an Airport Express in my garage, right next to the ONT, and am having it relay its connection wirelessly to my main Airport Extreme in the office. ↩︎

  2. Pronounciations: Oh-En-Tee, COH-axe, EETH-er-net. ↩︎