I found two very simple solutions to separate items on my TODO list.
The wireless connection is a little sporadic and sometimes reports a bit rate of 1Mb/s. Before tearing out the generic Broadcom drivers I downloaded, I cleared out some of the cable cruft near the antenna at the back of my ATI case. This alone bosted the bitrate up to 48Mb/s and it occasionally goes to the full 54Mb/s. No software configuration necessary.
SPDIF output on the built-in sound card was easy once I figured out that my NVidia nFORCE4 Motherboard comes with a Realtek chip'd soundcard which is based on the Intel i8X0 chipset. Confused? So was I. Contributing to this is ALSA's silently finicky .asoundrc file that requires the right chipset code after it's pcm and ctl config sections. My final .asoundrc file with PCM output going to the SPDIF device (2) looks like: