Sunday, January 29, 2012

Verizon FiOS - Remote DVR Access Problems

One of the great things about the Verizon FiOS set-top boxes being IP (Internet Protocol) enabled is that it provides the opportunity for the devices to be securely accessed by remote applications. 

I find it very convenient to use these apps to see what is already recorded, or scheduled to be recorded on the DVR ("Digital Video Recorder"), while in a remote location. It's also nice to be able to schedule new recordings when I'm are not at home with the remote control in-hand. Verizon offers this capability for all FiOS customers via the Verizon website and through applications for mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad, and Android.

I had been using this feature while traveling on business or out with friends for several months without a problem. Then, for no apparent reason, the app broke.


Suddenly, whenever I would attempt to connect to the FiOS DVR from the Verizon website, iPhone, or iPad, I would receive an error message that stated "Set-Top Box is not responding," "Bad Gateway," or "Network connection timed out." I chalked it up to a gremlin and waited a few days before trying again. Unfortunately, I got the same result.

Searching online, I found that this seemed to be a rather common problem for Verizon. There were a number of people who complained that the Verizon Support Representatives were not of much help when trying to fix this issue. I can confirm that, as my own chat session started with the rep telling me that the iPhone and iPad were not capable of remotely accessing the FiOS DVR... which would probably be a real surprise to the Verizon folks who designed and coded the iPhone and iPad app.

After spending way too much time trying to work with the Verizon support representatives, I was able to easily resolve the problem myself. If you are having this same issue with remote DVR control capability, this blog post may be of some help.

First, two real basic things to check. 

     Is the DVR turned on?

     Is the FiOS router turned on?

Yes. I know that should be obvious, but you may be surprised...

Based upon the information I've been able to gather, the remote DVR error messages are related to a port mapping issue on the Verizon back-end system. As you may have already determined, rebooting the set-top box or FiOS router does not correct the problem. Apparently, Verizon Tech Support can perform some remote magic to fix this mapping problem, and I believe that magic is simply rebooting the ONT ("Optical Network Terminal"). 

The ONT is the device that provides the interface between the Verizon fiber optic network and the Ethernet / coax system in your house. This device is most often located in some other place away from the FiOS router, usually mounted on the outside of the building. Very close by the ONT, on the inside of the building, is the device's power supply. The unit includes a AC power transformer, AC to DC power supply and conditioner, and a large battery to provide uninterruptible power to the ONT. In order to reboot the ONT on-site, you must first disconnect the AC power (i.e. unplug the power supply from the 120 volt wall outlet) and then disconnect the backup battery.

Warning! Rebooting the ONT will temporarily disable your connection to the Verizon FiOS system. Be certain that all of your network users are aware that their Internet connection and television signal will be interrupted during this process.

To disconnect the backup battery, open the swinging battery door on the ONT power supply and disconnect the battery plug to the power supply (circled in blue in the photo) by squeezing the connector's tabs and pulling straight out. Wait about ten seconds and then reconnect the backup battery and plug the power supply back into the AC outlet. 

Once the power has been restored, the ONT will reboot, resetting the port mapping which should quickly fix the problems that you have been experiencing with remote DVR access. This process is straight-forward, simple, and doesn't require having to deal with Verizon Tech Support!