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On Thursday we had Verizon FIOS Internet/TV/Phone service installed; we were previously Verizon analog phone customers and had Comcast TV/Internet service.  After using the new service for a few days, I’m pleased with the Internet and blown away by the TV – more about that later.

Some of my neighbors made the switch from Comcast to Verizon FIOS recently, and with the free installation and temporarily free equipment Verizon was offering, it was time to try it out.  Before we ordered FIOS I called Comcast and gave them a chance to keep our business by offering us more TV services for a similar price.  We had kept our Comcast bill low for years by not subscribing to the “Standard” service tier, which meant we had a big gap between the Basic channels and the ones we were getting on Digital Preferred.  We’ve also had the HDTV/DVR services a number of years.  To compete with what we’d get with FIOS, Comcast would have had to give us the Standard tier for free (minus the extra HD stations to match Verizon FIOS TV Essentials that we ordered).  They wouldn’t commit to any deals beyond 6 months, so we ordered FIOS.

To prepare for the FIOS install experience I read forum posts and talked to neighbors and friends who had recently ordered the service.  I was pleased when I found out that the Internet and TV services would share the existing coax wiring (like Comcast) because it meant that no new wires would need to be run.  The FIOS ONT box and its battery backup were small enough to fit comfortably next to the other utilties on our basement wall, right near all the coax leads and the telephone punchdown block.  I had mounted a surge protector near there to prepare for the install, and the system was plugged into that.

Verizon had committed to starting the install between 8-Noon on Thursday at the time of the order and they had followed up with automated and human calls over the 2 weeks prior to confirm that we were still on schedule.  They estimated 4-6 hours of install time.  I got a call from the installer (Bill) around 8:30 Thursday morning to let me know he’d arrive soon.  He arrived at 9:30 and the install lasted until about Noon.  I worked with him when required and did proactive testing on my computers, which really sped up the process.  The Internet service is delivered through a nicely-appointed Actiontec MI-424-WRv2 wireless router.  For the TV service we got the Home Media DVR for the family room HDTV and a standard-def box in the master bedroom.  The cable boxes took about 20 minutes to activate over the Internet service; once done, Bill gave me a demo of their features.  They’re Motorola boxes similar to what Comcast uses, however the gorgeous menus and their responsiveness leave Comcast in the dust.  Two really cool things we get with the Home Media DVR include the ability to watch SD stuff we’ve recorded on the upstairs box and Media Manager software, which lets a computer on the network serve pictures and videos to the DVR.  I’ve played with the pictures so far.  There’s also a feature that lets you interact with your DVR over the internet, but I haven’t set that up yet.

The router is full featured and has advanced settings like Q0S that I will be digging in to to optimize Skype and move things like FTP and Bittorrent to low priority.  It has an easy-to-use web interface that clearly shows you the devices that are on the Ethernet, Wireless, and Coax networks (including the cable boxes).  I quickly opened up RDP and FTP services for my server and verified that was working within the first hour after the install.

Since I still have Comcast services until Monday, here’s a comparison of my Comcast “Performance” service with the Verizon 2/10 (up/dowm Mbps) service:

They’re similar, as I expected, but notice the much lower ping time with Verizon.  I’m pretty pleased with the internet performance I got from Comcast.  The reason we moved to FIOS was the difference in TV services for the price, as well as to get better telephone services like flat-rate US long-distance calling.

Speaking of price, we’ll see how the two vendors compare after our initial promotional pricing expires.  We were paying about $120/month ($90 Comcast/$30 Verizon) before and I think we’ll be paying about $110/month to Verizon for the first year an then about $130/month in the second year.

The one thing that didn’t get set up on Thursday was our Verizon Online account, but I was able to quickly do that over the phone with a Verizon customer service rep on Friday morning.  They give you up to 7 accounts that have email/newsgroup/web services.  I couldn’t get “aharden”, but I did get “aharden3”, “alexharden” and “alex.harden”.  I may even go ahead and get accounts for Ryan and Zachary so they’ll be waiting on the boys when they’re old enough.

We used the DVR to play back some of our series recordings last night and it works just as good as Comcast’s.  The menu navigation is very different.  One difference from Comcast that I like is that the box doesn’t display the timeline bar as you’re skipping around the recording.  The FIOS TV remote is well-laid out and isn’t requiring much time to get used to.  Unlike the Comcast DVR remote, keys for skipping both forward and backward are provided.  I had to program a macro key on the Comcast remote to get the skip forward feature.  On Demand content is roughly the same between the two carriers, but one thing I noticed was that Verizon charges $6 for new HD movies.  Comcast charges $5. 

Let me know if you have more questions about the FIOS service.  I’m sure I’ll post more as I continue to use it.