My Take on Verizon FiOS Internet & TV Service

Posted by: on Jul 23, 2008 in Opinion, Reviews, Technology | 7 Comments

After learning that Verizon’s FiOS service was made available in my neighborhood, I scheduled installation of the 15/2mbps service. The excitement was nearly unbearable!
 

Pre-pre Installation

On June 13th, the first Verizon tech showed up to run a line from the sidewalk to the garage. The house is less than 3 years old, so there was already conduit prepped. The only problem was that the builders didn’t have the brains to mark where the conduit terminated inside the garage wall.

The Verizon tech had to guess where the termination was and I wound up with a 6"x6" hole in my sheetrock. Wrong spot. Wrong spot means big hole in the wall and no cable drop. After fumbling around for another potential drop point, another 6"x6" hole was cut into the wall. Success on the second attempt.

As for the holes in the wall, I was told that such booboos were commonplace and that Verizon would send someone out to fix the sheetrock the following business day (Monday), free of charge. I waited the whole day and no one showed up. Nice.
 

Pre Installation

On June 17th, two more Verizon techs showed up to string the fiber optic line from the street to the second of the two holes in my sheetrock. It took them 3 minutes. Not bad. They didn’t repair the sheetrock. They stood in my driveway smoking cigarettes for about 15 minutes. Nice.
 

Installation

The very next day, I got a call from “Paul”, a thick-accented guy. He said he was running 15 minutes early for my appointment and asked if it was ok for him to arrive early. I agreed. After all, how can one argue with that? Paul turned out to be Pavel, a very nice Ukrainian guy. We got along great – I spent time in Kiev, so we had plenty to talk about while he was setting up the TV and modem.

Despite the 3 hours allocated for the entire installation, Pavel got his whole job done in less than 45 minutes – that’s full installation of the Verizon FiOS service box, TV, modem, everything. He was smart, quick and very professional. He even turned down a nice tip.
 

Property Damage

After Pavel left, I called to see if someone would fix the sheetrock. After 8 or 9 phone calls and over 5 hours on the phone (much of it on hold listening to awful, brain-melting, self-congratulatory Verizon ads and Muzak BeeGees), I failed find someone who will take responsibility for fixing the sheetrock. I got passed around from support people to supervisors to techs to regional support folks. Total incompetence and “I don’t give a shit” attitude by everyone on the phone.

I finally landed one support guy in Texas who said that I should just have the sheetrock repaired myself and Verizon would reimburse the costs. At the same time, he said he’d submit a “ticket” that would require a guaranteed call-back from a local supervisor within 48 hours.

I got the two gaping holes repaired for $112.97. I called Verizon to request reimbursement, whether by check or account credit. Another dozen calls ensued, with everyone passing the buck to the local Verizon dispatch/support manager. They eventually gave me his cell phone number. I called, left a voicemail and never heard back from him.

4-5 days later, I called Verizon again – nada. Total lines of crap from everyone I got passed to. The mandatory 48-hour call-back gets extended by 48 hours each time I call.
 

Property Damage, Follow-Up

After seemingly endless calls to Verizon to get a reimbursement for property damage done during the initial installation, I managed to track down the Verizon tech that came out to my house to do the install. She agreed to find someone at a local command center who’d look into the issue. As a result, I got a call from a nice lady with local Verizon management. According to her, Verizon isn’t responsible for damage done to the property by the original installation contractor.

When she was informed that a) three Verizon techs and four support reps acknowledged that they were responsible, and that b) the “original contractor” was Verizon (duh!), they agreed to a reimbursement. I was told a check would be sent to me right away. Three weeks later, a check arrived. Issue successfully closed.
 

Download Speeds

In the mean time, our 15/2mbps service was averaging 5mbps down and roughly 1.2mbps up. That’s 1/3 the advertised download speeds. Calls to tech support were fruitless – reboot, reset the modem, blame it on the Mac OS, pass it off to a higher level support group, offer false promise of call-back. No one has been able to successfully troubleshoot the slow speeds.

Here’s a speed test (speedtest.net) done July 1st with my 15/2 FiOS service:

Here’s the last speed test I did while I still had Comcast running (test run June 16th):

According to Verizon FiOS support, FiOS speeds may not be faster all the time, but they’re consistent. Ha ha ha. Ouch. That kind of consistency is nothing to brag about.
 

Download Speeds, Good News Follow-Up

For some reason, the first 2-3 weeks of FiOS service sucked badly. Verizon techs couldn’t figure out why. Neither could I.

All of a sudden, with no obvious causation, the upload and download speeds normalized at 90% to 101% of the 15/2mbps account speeds. That’s right – I’ve actually seen downloads exceed the 15mbps download cap. I haven’t had a single service outage since the sudden improvement. Go figure.

 

Legal Bittorrent

I have tested a number of bittorrent services, downloading “public domain” movies, etc. I have seen 10-15mbps downloads on a constant basis. With Comcast, I considered myself very, very lucky if I was downloading at 4mbps. Upload speeds are also awesome. The main thing I really notice with FiOS and bittorrent is that when files are screaming up/down at near max speeds, the rest of my online activity is not hampered. With Comcast, if I downloaded at over 2-3mbps and uploaded over 400kbps, everything else would crap out. Email would fail, websites would crawl to a halt and the internet was essentially useless. Not so with FiOS.
 

Video on Demand – Foreign, Porn, Horror

Oh, Video on Demand. Free movies available all day, all night, ripe for the picking. Comcast offered 80-90 good movies for free. I was excited about the FiOS TV videos on demand. The sales reps I talked to explained that there are tons of choices. This evening, I checked out what might be available for free. Porn. Horror flicks. Obscure foreign films. Three odd-ball Disney films and a cornucopia of 3-4 minute shorts. What the f-ck?

I called Verizon FiOS support to see if I was missing something. I got a support rep who sounded like he was heavily stoned. After verifying every last minute detail about my account, he asked what the problem was. I explained the bogus selection. After a long pause (was he toking? eating? picking his nose?) he repeated my problem back to me like a junior high school counsellor, only he got it wrong. I explained again, telling him my options for free Video on Demand were Horror, shorts and Porn. When he heard ‘porn’, he asked me “for free?!” I said, “Yes, for free, but that’s not the point. Comcast has nearly 100 good movies – comedies, action, suspense, whatever. Where’s the selection on FiOS?”

Stoney suggested that I re-educate myself on the remote control and VoD settings. (Painfully stupid.) Another few repeats of my “actual” problem to dipshit support man left him slightly dumber than before. He concluded that it has to be a billing issue – that the monthly FiOS TV plan I’m on must restrict free Video on Demand movies. Good lord.
 

Channels Go Wacko

After 5 weeks with the Verizon TV service, and after having saved all my favorite channels for quick and easy on-screen access, Verizon changed their entire channel lineup with not so much as a ping for warning. No letter, no call, no on-screen “hey, we’re about to shuffle the entire deck, dude” – nothing. Now none of my favorite channels have the same numeric value any more. What the heck is that all about?
 

My Overall Observation of FiOS

Technologically, Verizon’s FiOS service is awesome. Download and upload speeds are fantastic. Speeds are consistent, too. As an alternative to cable high-speed Internet, FiOS gets a very, very good score of 8/10 or even 9/10.

Verizon’s main weakness is a confounding combination of corporate idiocracy, contradictory management policies and untrained/unintelligent support staff. Not all Verizon support techs are detrimental to the cause (honestly, some are very smart and helpful), but too many low-rent reps spoil Verizon’s potentially wonderful image.

It seems that Verizon is simply just too big and clumsy for its own good. It seems as though Verizon can’t manage itself worth a damn, and if it wasn’t for the solid technical delivery of its services, Verizon would probably implode or get eaten up by competitors.
 

Oh, and I just got another Verizon FiOS invitation letter encouraging me to switch from cable to FiOS.