My father has Verizon DSL service and an Actiontec GT704-WGV DSL Wireless Gateway, a modem/router customized for Verizon. The setup recently gave him some trouble. Read on if you have a similar setup and want to know how the problems were solved.

Last week, my father’s laptop lost its ability to reach the internet. Once I had the chance to poke around its settings, I found that it was connecting to an unprotected signal from somewhere in my father’s building, rather than the WEP-encrypted signal being generated by the Actiontec gateway. I connected the laptop to the Actiontec network, but it still couldn’t reach the internet. So I pressed the reset switch on the Actiontec to return it to factory defaults. I ran the setup program, signed into the DSL network, got all the ready lights on the gateway to go green, and received a message from the setup program that “the gateway is ready for internet access.”

Except that there was no internet access, not even from the desktop’s wired connection, which had been working before. I turned the gateway off, rebooted the computer, re-ran the setup program — all to no avail.

When I got home, I found that I was able to access my father’s computer remotely using GoToMyPC, which meant that his gateway was indeed connected to the internet. Skype was working. None of the browsers, however, could find any addresses on the internet, so I figured it was some kind of DNS problem. I tried changing name servers, using Verizon’s 4.2.2.x servers and then OpenDNS‘s servers. Still nothing. I tried reconfiguring the network card with both static DNS addresses and then with dynamic addresses. Nothing. I ran ipconfig /flushdns from the command prompt to flush the DNS cache. Still nothing. with no improvment and then used ipconfig /realease. (This, of course, necessitated a call to my father to have him enter ipconig /renew.) Still no luck. I went to the “Status” screen of the gateway’s setup program and disconnected there. (This necessitated another call to my father to have him reconnect.) Again, nothing.

I told my father he should call Verizon’s customer service and describe the problem, fully expecting that such a call would be fruitless. Verizon, after all, is widely denigrated on the net for poor customer service and technical support

He called anyway and was lucky enough to be connected to a helpful technical support person, who worked with him for half-an-hour, doing many of the things that I had done. Finally, the tech person directed my father to access a particular subdirectory within the gateway:

This brought up a secret firmware screen, which reads: “RESTRICTED.  For further assistance, please contact Verizon Online DSL Technical Support – 800-567-6789.” And then there’s a radio button. My father was directed to click on it, turning it from “OFF” to “ON.” And then everything worked.

When my father related this story to me  I suddenly remembered that I had also had to call Verizon when I first set up the gateway and was directed by a support person to precisely this screen, which is mentioned nowhere in any documentation that I could find. I’d simply forgotten when I tried to reinitialize the unit.

So . . . if you’re having problems with your Verizon-customized Actiontec DSL Wireless Gateway make sure to check that the secret firmware screen is set to “ON” before you call Verizon:

You’ll need to enter in the router’s username and password. The defaults are “admin” and “password.”