Verizon FiOS Router Auto-Updating and Configuration Problems

This is more of a vent than anything else, but there’s a bit of a lesson learned, at least for me, here.

I just spent the last three hours fighting my home network. I got a little snippy with Jenn, who didn’t deserve it, due to the ridiculously high frustration levels. Darn close to broke a lot of stuff at random just because I was so pissed.

The problem: Xbox Live was not connecting and, on testing, was telling me that my NAT settings were set to “moderate.”

Let me give you a little background.

Xbox Live requires certain ports to be freely available to it. I don’t recall which ones and I’m too irritated right now to go Google them for you so I’ll trust you can do that on your own. The ports are not the point. The point is, if you don’t have these ports available, Xbox Live will sometimes decide to throw little network curve balls your way, like you’ll be able to connect to half of your gaming group but not the other half. Or you’ll be able to do video chat but you’ll get no audio. Crap like that.

In order to determine if you’ve figured out the magic combo, you do a “network test” from the Xbox dashboard and it basically gives you either a green light or an unhelpful message telling you about a problem. The message will say something about your “NAT settings are Moderate” or your “NAT settings are Strict.”

You don’t want Moderate or Strict, you want Open. Open means Xbox Live can get to all the stuff it needs to get to and will choose not to hose you in the middle of your Call of Duty session with your dad and uncle.

Usually I have no problems. My NAT has always been Open. Every once in a while, though, and it’s ever since we got Verizon FiOS, my NAT will suddenly change from Open to Moderate. I’ve never hit Strict, but it doesn’t matter, because it may as well be black and white - Moderate is bad news.

The trouble is that I can’t predict when it’s going to decide to change. Sometimes it just “changes” and rebooting the Xbox will fix it. Sometimes rebooting the router fixes it. Sometimes waiting an hour fixes it. Sometimes checking an arbitrary setting on the router and then unchecking it again - just change something and change it back - fixes it. It’s entirely unpredictable. I think I figured out what causes it, though.

Tonight I got the Moderate NAT problem. Again. So I was trolling through my settings and found that there were a bunch of weird port forwarding rules that I don’t remember setting up. Innocuous stuff for valid applications like MS Messenger, but I didn’t set them up - they got set up by UPnP. I also noticed that the admin interface was slightly different from the last time I was in there.

Verizon auto-updates stuff.

I knew they auto-updated the firmware on the set-top boxes, but I didn’t think about the damn routers. They’ve been updating crap and I’d bet dollars to donuts the NAT problems I see crop up sporadically coincide with these helpful updates.

I couldn’t figure out how to fix it this time. I had the Xbox as a DHCP client, so I switched it to a static IP and added some port forwarding rules. No luck. I messed around with all sorts of crazy settings, no luck. NAT = Moderate.

In the end, I went catastrophic. Full reset to factory defaults. Put the WEP key back in, put the SSID back in, reconfigure everything. And you know what?

THAT FIXED IT. Suddenly the NAT was back to Open.

What a load of crap.