Moving into the new apartment wasn’t without issues. The big issue was the internet. While I get free community wifi service, it doesn’t work for any wired device or 2.4ghz wireless clients.
So my main desktop computer couldn’t get online, but at least my client-provided work laptops could.
The goal was to get wired access to Spectrum Community Service along with support for smart outlets which weren’t connecting to the apartment community wifi.
How to get a wired router to connect to an apartment’s Spectrum Community Service wifi.
Ideally, I would like to just move my existing setup and configure it so the router connects to the wifi and provide internet access to everything connected to it.
This sounds like it should be easy. A router in bridge mode should do it. I order a Linksys EA7500, put it in bridge mode, and attempt to connect. The community wifi requires a MAC address to be added to the account. The wifi network id and password are generic.
After connecting, I get a login screen where I log in with a unique username and password. That adds the MAC address to my account. I can also manually add the MAC address for devices that don’t have a web browser, like TVs or gaming consoles.
After plugging in the EA7500, I manually add the MAC address. I set it to bridge mode and give it the generic network credentials. It would act like it connected, then immediately disconnect, and then just repeat that over and over.
Never would I obtain an IP address, though.
In order to keep my existing network, I tried a new approach, a wired to wireless adapter. The theory was I could put the EA7500 in wired bridge mode, and then use the wireless adapter in the WAN port essentially making that provide the internet to everything plugged in or wireless connected to the EA7500.
While this seems like a good strategy since the adapter was less than $20, it was shipped from Asia…it still hasn’t been delivered.
The best and cheapest option then became running a DD-WRT based router.
The idea was to take a dual band router and set it up in client mode. Allow one band to connect to the apartment wifi and provide internet access to the other band along with the wired ports.
What makes this the cheapest option is DD-WRT is far more stable on older routers. On routers with multiple versions, version 1 typically works best.
A quick way to find a supported router is to just search eBay for DD-WRT. To bring costs down, after finding one that has DD-WRT installed, find the same model without it installed, and just flash the firmware yourself.
I decided on a WNDR3400/WNDR4000/WNDR4500 since those were all common and supported DD-WRT. I just needed to find one that was version 1 with the power cord that was cheap even when shipping was factored in.
I ended up win a WNDR4500 for $22. As a comparison, the EA7500 was $129.00.
I did run into some issues with the WNDR4500. After failing to connect to it after receiving it, I had to flash the firmware a few times for it to actually go through and work. After that, I was able to install DD-WRT.
One installed, configuring DD-WRT wasn’t too complicated. I set up the 5ghz band to connect to the apartment wifi. That would allow the 2.4ghz band to set up as my previous wireless network was, same network id and password.
Doing so, would allow all my previously configured wireless devices to automatically connect since the saved network details would match.
Setting it up was pretty straight forward.
On the Wireless tab, in Basic Settings, I have two physical interfaces listed, the 5ghz and the 2.4ghz. Before starting, I went to the Setup tab, Basic Setup, and set the local IP to an IP address that won’t conflict. My apartment wifi was 172.20.X.X, so I left it at 192.168.1.1.
I have some smart outlets that use 2.4ghz, so I wanted that band to mimic my old apartment network. I set up the 5ghz band first, the one that would connect to the community wireless.
On the Wireless tab, Basic Settings, I set the physical interface for the 5ghz to use client for the wireless mode. For the network name, I entered the name of the network to connect to, the name of apartment wireless network.
On the Wireless Security tab, I added the security mode, WPA algorithm, and WPA key to log on to the community wifi. It’s a generic password that everyone uses. However, joining the network, I get redirected to a page asking me to sign in.
That page uses a username and password specific to me, and saves the MAC address of the device to my account.
I can bypass that by logging into my account to manage devices, and manually adding the MAC address. The router has 3 MAC address, LAN, WAN, and wireless. To help make things easier, I added the WAN MAC to my account which should bypass the need to log in.
I rebooted the router, and when it started back it, it shows my WAN IP in the top right!
With the community wifi connection, all wired ports are now getting an internet connection. However, the second band, the 2.4ghz one, does nothing.
The goal was to set it up to match my old setup so all devices with saved connection details could also connect to the router, which would then share the internet connection it got from my apartment.
Back on the Wireless tab, Basic Settings, I set 2.6ghz physical interface to use wireless mode AP. Back on the Wireless Security tab, I set the SSID and password to what my old network used to be.
After rebooting, all wireless devices that had the old network saved could join the network on the 2.4ghz band, which then bridged with the 5.ghz and were connecting to the internet through the community wifi.