FIOS first impressions

I was going to switch to FIOS three years ago, but Verizon's subscontractors missed three separate installation appointments. Third time was the charm.  I told them to forget it.

A couple weeks ago, time came for Comcast contract renewal. Usually you could talk them into some "long-time user" credit that would bring the increase down to a reasonable level. But Comcast just doesn't seem to negotiate any more.

From a strictly technical standpoint, FIOS is superior; fiber all the way to the optical network terminal. I now have about three to four times the download speed and 80 times the upload speed- important to me, because I transfer a lot of large publishing files.

This time when I called, Verizon was there the next day. The installer was friendly, competent, and fast, and took time to explain all the components and test everything out.

So, the first thing to do:  log in to the Verizon FIOS website and get acclimated, and set up web streaming for my cable news channels. That's when I began noticing the differences between Comcast and Verizon...

1. Despite clicking the checkboxes to remember me and keep me logged on, the website requires me to provide an answer to a security question every time I log on, and drops the stream and tells me to log back in after an hour or so. That wasn't a problem with Comcast, but the FIOS website requires what seems like three times the number of mouse clicks to get where you're going.

2. Contacting Comcast support was a breeze: one phone number that answered quickly and called back within three minutes with a tech on the line. You have to run a gauntlet of menus to eventually get to a human with FIOS, if you don't press a wrong key, find yourself in a menu loop and have to hang up and call back.

3. Has anyone within Verizon actually tried to use their online help? You keep getting routed back to the page that wasn't working in the first place. I was flashing back to the 80s: "you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike"

4. What's the deal with only a few channels being available to stream on a PC with a web browser? Comcast has had this for years, and you don't' have to go through a half-dozen clicks to get to where you want to go. If the cable news channels had been unavailable, it would have been a deal killer. FIOS is bordering on false advertising here... note how in its boasts about streaming, the term "your mobile devices" is buried in the description I didn't buy a third 22" monitor for my computer to watch TV on a six inch Android screen. Various FIOS folk I've mentioned this to say it's because of broadcast licensing restrictions. In other words, Verizon didn't want to pay the extra bucks, which might explain why it costs less. (Wake-up call to content providers- a competent tech can pirate stuff as easily off a mobile device as a web browser. )

5. For the first few days, TV video and audio would stutter or drop completely.  I quit calling support and just unpluggied and plugged the STBs a few times. So far, so good.

6. VOIP phone. To be honest, I don't have an old fashioned plug it into something telephone. But I've had my current landline phone number since 1984, when giants walked the earth and Bell Atlantic was the only game in town. I just call-forward the VOIP number to my cell. I don't confuse people with multiple numbers. Everything goes to the cell.

The install was last Thursday.  Verizon said they'd have the number ported  from Comcast on Monday, Tuesday morning at the latest. Nope. Tuesday around noon, I called to check on the status and stayed on the line with the nice FIOS support lady until she got the number ported. A call to the newly ported line dumped me into voicemail, where a feminine voice informed me "You've reached Mark and Susan."

Back to the Verizon website, where I could supposedly configure everything. Except I everything I tried resulted in "An eror occured while processing your request. Please try again."

I assume they meant something other than spelling "error" incorrectly.

Back on the phone, and two hours later calls were forwarding and voicemail was working, and I sure hope Bill at FIOS gets combat pay.

The website still won't let me change my phone settings. Bill said the engineer told him "it might take up to a week for the website to update." What are they updating it with? Punch cards and sled dogs? This is the 21st century, people.

7. The Internet connection sometimes glitches for a minute or so, seemingly at random times during the day, but never twice in a 24 hour period.

Comcast is much better at human interfacing their hardware and software than Verizon. I don't need that fruit salad channel guide (although Comcast uses almost half the screen real estate, plugging their OnDemand stuff). The X1 DVR is easier to navigate as well, although I'm certain it's just a matter of getting used to the new interface.

Rant concluded.

On the plus side, the Verizon support people- once I could get to them- were extremely helpful and patient. During a senior moment I accidentally, hung up on Bill, and he called me back in under 30 seconds.

The Internet speed is terrific (for east coast US, anyway). I've been streaming like a banshee, and latency is almost a thing of the past.

Speaking of speed, channel changing and othe operations on FIOS is almost instantaneous; the X1 processes commands much more slowly.

Claims to the contrary, Comcast does compress its signals, especially on the low-volume channels like COZI and MeTV.  The video and audio on COZI were almost ten seconds out of sync and the picture on the verge of pixillation a while back. I called the chief engineer at WTAE-TV, the "parent" of COZI, and he told me they send out one signal, period. On a TV with a digital antenna, the over-the-air picture was clear and Columbo no longer looked like a badly dubbed Japanese movie. This is totally subjective on my part, of course, but the FIOS video seems sharper, with no pixillation, even in action scenes.

Fix the website and channel issues and I'll probably stick around. The fact the current FIOS bundle special saved me more than 40% on my internet, phone, and tv is an incentive as well (as long as it lasts). But the faster Internet is almost worth it.

(Speaking of website issues; the site timed out when I tried posting this the first time,