Apple Airport Express and Comcast

I have been using a D-Link DGL-4500 for a few years as my home router.  I have tried many different models from Cisco, NetGear, D-Link, Buffalo, Belkin and Asus looking for a better router, but the DGL-4500 has been a very solid performer and has features that I want/need- such as DHCP reservations, specific port forwarding and port translations.  Tonight I gave the Apple Airport Express a try- and so far it looks pretty good.

One issue with the Airport Express is that it does not do MAC address cloning- which is fairly useful for carriers such as Comcast that cache the MAC address and tie it to to the provided Internet IP address.

I have a Motorola Surfboard SB6120 cable modem and I found that it has a standard IP address of  Putting this address into a web browser brings up some interesting information about my cable connection- including a ‘Reset All Defaults’ option that should clear the MAC address that is bound to the CPE (Customer Premise Equipment) info for the modem.  I say ‘should’ as it did not appear to actually reset when I tried it.  Instead I found a way to have the modem recognize a new MAC address.

  • Unplug power from the cable modem and the router (Airport Express)
  • Disconnect the Ethernet cable between the modem and the router
  • Plug in both devices, letting them boot independently and complete their startup (look at the lights on the modem/router to see when it is done).
  • After the Cable modem is done, wait another full minute.
  • Plug in the Ethernet cable between the cable modem and the router broadband connection

If all works like it did for me, the cable modem should recognize the new device and use its MAC address for the new CPE.  It takes about a minute to reconnect to the internet, but it should complete.  If not, then you will probably need to call Comcast tech support and tell them you have a new router and they can clear the CPE info remotely.

To setup the AirPort Express, you will need an iPod/iPad or a Mac with the AirPort Utility.  This will be detected in network settings on an iOS device, or it is under Applications –> Utilities under MacOS.  If you are using a PC, you will need to download the Windows Airport Utility from Apple before you start trying to configure this new Internet connection.

I have been fairly impressed; the AirPort Extreme allows for separate private & guest networks, has a decent DHCP reservation system and has a pretty intuitive port forwarding setup.  Fore example, I was able to create a forwarding rule that forwards TCP 80, 21, 3550, 4550, 5550, 5511 and 8866 in one statement (these are used for GeoVision remote monitoring). 

Range seems pretty nice on the Apple device; I will try it out for a few days and see if it is really worth the $180 Apple is asking for it… :)

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