Set Up Broadband ADSL or Cable Account without using Vendor's setup CD

(Posted 3/7/2007) - Most new ADSL or Cable broadband customers activate and set up their new service using a vendor supplied application CD. There are sometimes valid reasons for not wanting to install this CD. To wit:

  • Not wanting to load unknown "repair-monitor" software on your install machine (yet another app running in the background 24/7 that hogs resources).
  • Not wanting to suffer the instabilities that have at times plagued users of 3rd-party software that is auto-installed from the application CD.
  • Having an unsupported OS on the install computer which is incompatible with the activation and setup apps provided by the Internet Service Provider (ISP).

In general, ADSL vendors have adopted PPOE (Point-to-Point over Ethernet) as the protocol for connection establishment (all ADSL consumer services use this in North-America). Cable vendors have adopted a MAC addressing protocol (where the modem uniquely identifies itself to the cable-head equipment on powerup). Cable users do not require ISP provided userID and password, since the cable modem MAC address is unique and activation binds that address to the user account. I will talk about what a new subscriber needs to know to establish ADSL service between an ISP and their home equipment.

An ADSL account is typically activated before the service connection can be established. This is a primary function of the installation CD software: It makes a proprietary connection through the modem to the ISP's activation server which identifies the new subscriber as ready to PPOE connect for the first time.

The activation server returns a userID and password which are stored in the client PC and are then used by the client PPOE "dialer" application to make all subsequent connections.

If a user subsequently connects a hardware router between the modem and client-PC(s) that router must be updated to contain the userID and password and be set to use the PPOE protocol. Once this is done, the PC based PPOE-client application need never run again -- as all PC's connected to the router use the ethernet (or wirerless equivalent) service to communicate to the router's gateway services.

So, If you don't wish to contaminate your PC with the applications resident on the ISP installation CD just purchase a consumer-level router for $40 or less and follow these instructions after connecting your modem, router, and PC. The Modem is connected to your telephone line (without filter) or to a cable termination point. the WAN port of the Router is ethernet cabled to the Modem ethernet port. The PC's ethernet port is cabled to any of the router LAN ports.

You will need to call your ISP's service number and verbally request activation by saying you have an unsupported configuration and want them to manually activate your service. In the case of ADSL they will tell you what userID and password to enter into your router (you will also want to know whether the IP address is dynamically or statically assigned by the ISP).

All consumer routers these days provide a built-in HTTP web-server which allows you to administer said router over an ethernet connection with your PC. Just open your web-browser and type in a URL which will be recognized by the router webserver software. This is information unique to each router manufacturer (but is very typically or Your router's webserver will respond with a logon prompt. Your router's manufacturer will always have default router login values published (which you should change after login-in to avoid leaving a security hole). Once you log into the router you can administer its adjustable parameters.

Since each router's administration windows are unique to the manufacturer I won't attempt to describe the specifics -- other than to say, read the owners manual which will tell you how to select PPOE protocol, enter the ISP provided userID and password, and select whether to use dynamic or static IP. I have assumed the ISP will dynamically provide domain server addresses, but these can be statically entered into the router if required. These are the basic parameters that must be set in the router for it to support your ISP ADSL service.

In the case of Cable Broadband, select MAC protocol (it may say Cable Service) instead of PPOE. No other protocol parameters are generally needed since IP addresses are usually assigned dynamically (Dynamic Host Control Protocol used). If your cable service assigns a static IP then as part of activation information you will receive an IP address / domain name server IP addresses to enter into your router.

Happy surfing!