Below: When I signed up for Vonage, it was hard to get a picture of how I would need to reconfigure my network. So, as a public service, here’s a diagram that details how it looks now.
The initial installation was super-easy. The kit included a Linksys RT31P2-VD broadband router (essentially the same as a Linksys RT41P2-A2, I gather), which is a wired (not wireless) model with three LAN ports on the back and two phone jacks. It was, apparently, pre-configured for my new Vonage account: all I had to do was plug a standard household phone into the router, and then the router into my cable modem and I had a working dial tone.
I made a couple of brief calls to check the quality and sustainability of the line, which was decent. Then, with a little bit of trepidation, I ran an Ethernet cable from the router to my Netgear MR814v2 wireless router to allow my laptops to continue to share my broadband account. The AirPort Extreme card in my PowerBook started picking up a signal straight away, with no reconfiguration necessary for the card or the router, not even alterations to the security settings or the IP space. I picked up the Vonage-connected phone and it seemed to work.
Whole Lot of Nothing
Too easy, though. After making a call or two, the signal quality degraded precipitously. The lights on my cable modem started flashing, and then the cable signal went out entirely. To troubleshoot it, I took down the whole set-up and powered up each device carefully, one by one and in a logical order. Nothing. I tried it again, and still nothing. I took apart the whole set-up and reverted to my home network’s original state — cable modem, Netgear wireless router and laptop, with no Vonage involved — again powering each network device one by one. More nothing. I removed the wired and wireless routers altogether and hooked up my girlfriend’s PowerMac G4 to the modem solely via Ethernet. No result, just an apparently dead cable modem signal.
Resorting to desperate measures, I called Road Runner technical support, who seemed to think that there was a problem with my cable signal that had perhaps been lurking for a while, undetected. This seemed a plausible explanation to me, because I had, at times, experienced problematic connectivity — a sure sign of a degrading signal, apparently. It was less clear to me why the problem suddenly decided to take a turn for the worse at the same time as I added Vonage service, but I could only guess (vaguely) that the Vonage traffic caused some kind of major disruption. If you’re a VoIP expert, please feel free to weigh in here.
Tech Support to the Rescue. Or Not.
Having had all of this trouble during the quietest week of the year didn’t help, as Road Runner wasn’t able to schedule a repair appointment any sooner than today. But before the technician even arrived, the modem started working again, showing a full set of working lights, without fanfare. I don’t know when exactly, perhaps sometime on Monday.
So when the technician showed up this morning, all he did was take a reading on the cable signal, declare that everything was fine, insist that it was a Vonage problem, and then he took off. Right now, everything seems to work, though I haven’t truly put Vonage through its paces, so it may turn out that Vonage is in fact blowing out the cable signal. It’s an auspicious beginning for my experience with voice-over-IP, but I’m crossing my fingers that it will turn out well. It’s like they used to say in the dot-com boom: everything that can be digital will be.