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Troubleshooting Q&A - August 7, 2003

Sharing Your AOL DSL Broadband Connection

AOL's High Speed Cable Modem service is weakened by several limitations, so it's only natural to wonder whether the company's DSL broadband service suffers from the same. This week's Q&A examines how the two AOL broadband services compare in terms of networking and provides step-by-step details for sharing your AOL DSL service via a router.

By Ron Pacchiano

Q. For the last several months I have been using AOL’s DSL service for broadband Internet access, and for the most part I have been quite happy with it. Recently, it has come to my attention that other devices in my home could also take advantage of my DSL line. Specifically, I’m referring to my Microsoft Xbox game console and my TiVo Digital Recorder.

Now I understand that in order to share a DSL connection among multiple computers I’ll need to purchase a router and switch. However, I’m kind of concerned about my DSL service being provided by AOL.

I remember a few months back you answered a question that had to do with AOL’s High-Speed Cable Modem Service where you indicated that it wasn’t capable of functioning with a router. So I want to know if the same holds true for AOL’s DSL service. Could you please tell me if I can in fact use a router with my DSL service, and if so, how should I go about configuring it? Thank you!

A. Unlike AOL’s High-Speed Cable Modem Service, which has been plagued by limitations, AOL’s DSL service is actually much more user-friendly and should be compatible with the devices you mentioned. Configuring your Xbox and TiVo for Internet access is relatively straightforward and very similar to the way you configure it for the PC.

While I don’t have the space here to provide you with detailed instructions for configuring each of these devices, the manufacturer’s instructions should be more than sufficient to get you online. However, I can offer you some guidance with the most important part of this endeavor, which is setting up your router to work with AOL’s DSL service.

To begin with, unlike AOL’s High-Speed Cable Modem Service, AOL’s DSL Service makes use of the widely popular Point-to-Point over Ethernet (PPPoE) protocol. This means that it should work with a wide range of routers currently available on the market, including both wired and wireless routers. (AOL, incidentally, recommends that you use a Linksys, Netgear, or Actiontec router.)

Regardless of which router you actually purchase, the configuration for each is very similar. Basically, once your router is installed, you need to log into it. In most cases, this involves launching your web browser, entering the router's IP address (ex. 192.168.1.1), and then entering the router's administrative username and password. Next, you need to go to the PPPoE configuration screen and enter your account information. Enter your AOL Screen Name and password in the fields indicated.

There are two important things to keep in mind here. The first is that you must enter you screen name using the format "screenname@aol.com" (john@aol.com, for example). Second, your password must be entered using only lowercase letters. Any spaces or special characters MUST be left out! Once this has been completed, all you need to do is save and restart your router. Your router should now be online and ready to accept devices on it.

For more information on AOL’s broadband services and recommended hardware, please visit AOL and enter keyword: Home Networking. For additional assistance you can also contact AOL's technical support at either 888-418-1447 or by e-mail at support@aol.com. Good Luck!

Q. I have two computers in my home. One is connected to the internet, one isn’t. The reason for this is because my ISP only provided me with one IP address. I’d like to be able to get both of them on the Internet simultaneously, but I don't know how to go about it. I’ve tried disconnecting the Internet connection from the first PC and connecting it the second one, but it still couldn’t browse the web.

This brings me to another issue. I have the second PC configured to share files with the first PC, yet for some strange reason they can’t seem to “Ping” each other. This is preventing me and my friends from playing any TCP/IP-based games. Do you have any suggestions on what might be causing this? Thanks!

A. The fact that you can currently share files between the two machines but not ping between them is an indication that the two computers are connected via a network protocol other than TCP/IP — perhaps IPX or, more likely, NetBEUI. If the computers are not connected via TCP/IP, the ping command won’t work. This would also explain why the second system can’t get onto the Internet when it has the direct connection.

The best solution to your problem is to simply pick up an inexpensive broadband router. Your scenario is precisely why these devices were developed, and fortunately they can be purchased for as little as $50-$60. You didn't specify what kind of Internet access you have, but if it's a cable or DSL connection, a broadband router will also allow you to share the connection between the two machines via TCP/IP.

The specific configuration will vary slightly depending on the model, but the basic setup is that you connect your ISP hardware to the router's WAN port and your two computers to the router's switched LAN ports (rather than to each other). Once configured, the router will obtain an IP address from your ISP, and the router will in turn assign internal or private IP addresses to your two computers, allowing them to access the Internet and each other (i.e. for file sharing or network gaming).

You should make sure both machines are running the TCP/IP protocol and are set to obtain an IP address automatically. While you're at it, you can get rid of IPX or NetBEUI, since TCP/IP will be all you need.

If you're using modem dial-up as your Internet connection, you can still share the connection using the Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) feature found in Windows 98 Second Edition or higher. In this case, you'll keep the two machines connected to each other via a network cable, with ICS running on the computer with the modem and a setup diskette installed on the other computer.

Configuring ICS is a simple process, with detailed instructions available at http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;EN-US;306126. This article will explain how to configure both the host and client sides of ICS. Be aware, however, that two computers sharing a modem connection will not impress you with swift downloads. (Then again, even one computer using a dial-up isn't that impressive performance-wise these days.) Good luck.


Use our feedback form to submit your questions on home or SOHO networking issues. We cannot guarantee to answer every question we get, but we’ll consider them all.



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