Saturday, January 19, 2008

FiOS Follies

For months we have had FiOS envy. All summer we watched the slow progress as teams of ditchdiggers laid cable all over our neighborhood. Right in our front yard we got a six square foot coverplate, reducing the mowable area by about 20%. Then we waited to get the e-mail that we signed up for telling us that FIOS was available in our neighborhood. Signed up several times. That never came. And then the FIOS countdown began.

November 17. We notice a brown line of disturbed dirt and fresh straw in our next door neighbor’s yard going from said giant box to his garage. He had gotten FIOS. I went out to rent the van for the epic trip to see Beowulf. I got home and my wife was on the phone ordering the service. She was twenty minutes into the insanely tedious script of the customer service representative. She handed me the phone and it went another fifteen minutes. Then the CSR said he had to transfer me to someone else to confirm that I really wanted to change long distance services. Since we were in danger of being late to the movie, I ask if I can do this later and I’m told I would have to start the order all over again. Oh, and since our local service was through AT&T instead of Verizon, we couldn’t keep our old phone number. Total length of phone call: 50 minutes.

November 19. Verizon starts a new deal where they throw in a free flat panel TV if you order FIOS service. Since I had ordered two days earlier I’m not eligible. They also jacked up the price ten bucks a month for a two year contract. Do the math on how free that TV is.

November 26. Mysterious flags and painted stripes on the lawn begin appearing. By the 30th there is a fresh trench with straw up to our garage door with a mysterious wire sticking out.

December 4. The original date for the install is the day of my Grandmother’s funeral. I call and reschedule for the 14th. I get an e-mail confirming this. My wife calls and reschedules for the 13th. On the 12th we get a call saying someone over the age of 18 has to be home all day the following day.

December 13. Since I had a meeting on that day, my wife calls in sick and keeps me updated on the progress by phone. We had ordered an additional cable jack for our upstairs guest bedroom. The cable guy wants to run it up the front of the house. I wanted him to snake it through the attic. Instead he runs it over the door frame of the closet, into the hallway, over the doorframe of the hall bath, into my son’s room (with a loop for a future splice), over the door frame of his door and into the guest room. I vow to use the 100 feet of spare co-ax cable sitting in my garage to snake it through the attic myself someday. My wife rolls her eyes. I now have to prove her wrong. Someday.

December 14. I call Verizon in one last attempt to get my free TV and the CSR also tells me that the sales rep lied when he said the $12 movie package included HBO, but I could get the full HBO package for another $16 a month. Instead I ask about the HomeDVR service. For an extra $10 a month I can have all my boxes networked to the DVR. Since I had them install two DVRs, one for the bedroom and one in the family room, and they cost ten bucks a month each, it’s a better situation. But I needed to trade one DVR for a standard set-top box. The CSR wanted to make an appointment for a service tech. I say I’ll go pick up the box like I used to do with Comcast. No can do. Instead they say they will ship me the boxes and I can send back the un-needed DVR. This should take 3-5 days. Total length of phone call: 30 minutes.

December 23. I fix the power from tripping out every time it rains.

January 2. I call about my set-top box order. No record of it exists. I get the phone tag runaround round trip from orders to tech support to billings and back to orders. They place a new order. It should take 3-5 days. Total length of phone call: 45 minutes.

January 17. Two big boxes arrive. One has a set-top box and one has yet another DVR. I power up the new set-top box and call tech support to activate it. Once the lights are flashing, it takes 10 minutes to activate. The CSR promises to call back and she does. A few more buttons to be pushed on her end and I’m up and running. Total length of both phone calls: 20 minutes.

In the run-up to the install, I’m telling my wife all the horror stories about Verizon installs gone bad that I have read on sites like Consumerist. She says all her friends that have it had no problems and love it. My verdict: Meh.

The phone service is indistinguishable. Our new number is actually easier to remember, so no big deal there. The channel line-up is enormous, including the deal closer, The Travel Channel, that you can’t get on Comcast with any package. I already have six episodes of No Reservations recorded for when I want to watch them.

The broadband service? Plenty speedy and I don’t notice any difference even though I used to have the Comcast 16Mbps upgrade. My son’s wifi connection? That is a tale for another day.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Top my tale with your own horror story. Since mine went fairly smoothly, that shouldn’t be hard to do.


Anonymous said...

So was it worth all the hassle? I'm just jealous of the 16mB download speed. I'm "only" on 8mB. :D

TBG said...

Woo hoo! I walked out the other morning and every yard on my street had a man sticking out of the ground. They were digging holes and running the FiOS (every yard but my own, for some reason; after my neighbor's house, it ran back across the street).

We're on the countdown, too, now. But we will be getting a Tivo Series 3 HD, so we'll have to get cable cards from Verizon to work with it. That seems to be fodder for some great customer service horror stories. But it should be worth it in the end.

The worst Verizon story for us, though, was when my dad moved from his home of 46 years to a retirement home about 2 miles away. Needed to change the phone number he'd had since 1960, but that wasn't so bad. It was the fact that he went nearly four weeks without phone service. Seems that Verizon and AT&T kept passing the buck on what turned out to be literally flipping a switch in the basement of the retirement home; the director there finally asked a friend of hers to investigate and he simply flipped the switch to turn on my dad's phone service.

yellojkt said...

Using Speakeasy the network speed typically clocks at 5.2 Mbps download and 1.7 Mbps upload on FiOS. I don't really remember what I got on Comcast's "16 Mbps" service but I doubt it rarely went higher than 10 Mbps versus the 2-4Mbps that was typical before I upgraded. Comcast uploads rarely pushed 400 kbps.

Anonymous said...

Due to Verizon's longstanding policy of not caring about poor people, we here in Baltimore City probably won't be getting FiOS until, like, ever. I hear that the phone/Internet service is available in some of the new condo developments, but they haven't extracted a cable franchise out of the Baltimore City Council so there probably hasn't been much incentive to expand. I currently have DSL because we don't actually have cable TV and I refuse to deal with Comcast (who have struck me as slightly more evil over all than Verizon, though it's a near thing). But if I could get FiOS internet even without cable I probably would seriously consider it. I have started to bump up against DSL's speed limitations, mostly on those rare (but increasingly common) occasions when I'm downloading video via iTunes or something, and I send big files for work often enough that it can get to be a pain (upload speeds are much slower than download speeds).

My fear would be some technician coming in and mucking up my setup. I already have a wireless router and network set up exactly the way I want, thanks; just give me the damn numbers to plug in to my control panels and be on your way! I fear it wouldn't work like that though.

Fun Verizon horror story: My father-in-law, who also lives in Baltimore City, got DSL, which worked perfectly for two weeks then mysteriously shut down. When he called Verizon tech support, they told him that they did not offer DSL in his neighborhood, and never had. After much wrangling it got turned back on -- and then two weeks later the exact same thing happened, and the told him the same thing again -- "What, we don't offer DSL there!" He has Comcast now, for probably obvious reasons.

yellojkt said...

You can get the services unbundled, but the point is to save money with the package. The key to FiOS is the fiber to the door. Until they want to bring it, they won't. And choosing between Verizon and Comcast on the basis of evil is like an election between Stalin and Hitler.

Anonymous said...

You can get the services unbundled, but the point is to save money with the package.

True ... I guess my point was that I'd sign up for FiOS Internet/phone to replace my current DSL/phone situation alone, on the off chance that they actually offer it in my neighborhood before Baltimore approves them as a cable provider (which I doubt will happen). I've heard that in other markets Verizon's charges for FiOS for just Internet and phone service are no different than their charges for the DSL/phone bundle, so it'd be foolish not to upgrade.

Truly, I'm abivalent about having cable at all, as I'm afraid it will inexorably draw us to spend more time in front of the boob tube. Our TV viewing tends to come in bursts via Netflix DVDs of shows that we watch in bunches. Of course, this week we are finally going to replace our circa 1995 19-inch analog-input picture tube model with something respectable. A new improved TV might draw us inexorably towards couch potato-dom.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the small horror story. And since I believe in the theory "If it ain't broke don't fix it." I guess I won't be getting FiOS.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Our Charter bundle is one long horror story that won't ever end. If I could figure out an entertaining way to write about it I would, but I'm so sick of it I can't even muster up the energy to care.

2fs said...

America is great country!

Anonymous said...

This isn't so much with the horror, but it was pretty irritating.

When I first moved to Morrell Park I wanted to get the DSL. I plugged in my info at Verizon's website and got a message saying "Certainly it's available in your neighborhood!" so I arranged for the service to start. They sent me the kit with the modem and filters, etc.

About a day or so before the service was scheduled to be turned on I got an email saying there'd be a delay. About a week later I called them and they told me that the order had been cancelled altogether because DSL wasn't available in that part of Morrell Park. It seems that I was on the wrong side of Washington Blvd. I had no choice but to go with Comcast.

When I moved to Parkville (City, not County) and I closed the Comcast account, they asked why I was cancelling. I told them I was moving across town. "You can pick up the service there, then, you know." Uh, nooooo, thanks. So I have satellite TV now and DSL and am very happy with both.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Couldn't afford fios if my life depended on it. I'll stick with their DSL service because Crapcast is unreliable and too expensive too.

Armil@dsl available in my area said...

I would agree also that using Speakeasy the network speed typically clocks at 5.2 Mbps download and 1.7 Mbps upload on FiOS. Thanks for sharing your experienced.

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