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Correction to This Article
The column incorrectly summarized how Verizon's Fios service is connected to a customer's home. Although the company normally runs a coaxial cable to a router it installs in the home, it can use a standard Ethernet cable, allowing a customer to use any router instead of Verizon's.
Help File: Using Routers

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Q Verizon seems to be telling me that I have to use the wireless router they provide. I'd rather keep my Apple AirPort router. Can I?

A Yes. Although Verizon's Web site says its router is "needed for your Fios connection," you only actually require one connection on its back.

That would be its plug for the round, coaxial network cable that carries the Fios connection into your house. Once that's hooked up, you can use the rest of the router as Verizon suggests, or you can connect any other router to the Ethernet port also provided on the back of the Verizon unit.

Why would you want to plug an extra router into another, perfectly functional router and then shut off the first router's wireless transmitter? This reader notes one reason: She already paid for her own Wi-Fi access point and doesn't care to retire it. But there are other reasons to do such a thing.

One could be ease of use. The Verizon router, like many such devices, relies on a jargon-laden Web interface that buries important options -- on the last one I inspected, a stronger form of wireless encryption called WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) was hidden behind an "Advanced Security Settings" link.

Another could be performance. Many third-party routers offer a version of Wi-Fi, "802.11n," that covers a wider area and allows faster data transfers.

Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell said the company doesn't "officially" support the use of other routers. In practice, that may mean that if you call Verizon about a slow connection, you might have to plug a computer into the Fios router's Ethernet port to ensure that your own router isn't at fault.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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