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Why we dropped Cable and switched to FIOS

I wrote this for those people thinking of switching from Cable to FIOS.
We used cable for Internet /TV for about six years and later added VOIP and had very few problems. The cable company service was good, but the cable prices never seemed to stop rising. What made the decision for me was a flier I received from the cable company. It explained how we could get a Special package of TV/Telephone and Internet if we sign up for a Two year contract for an amazing $159.00 a month.  Guess they know FIOS would be available in our area in the next few months and they want to get people locked in 2 yr. contract.  Maybe they are taking advantage of what I think is Verizon's  big marketing mistake. Verizon should have kept people aware their service was coming soon and at a much better price than the cable company was offering.
We see ads on television with a cute little kid talking about fiber optics, but no one knows that it is actually here in our area. 
We found out about it because we kept asking the people in the Verizon trucks working around our neighborhood. One guy told us it was ready now so a quick call and 3 days later, we had FIOS. Like I said, no one knew it was available yet and there was no waiting list yet.  We were lucky, really lucky.  Some of our neighbors came over when it was being installed and asked how we knew, who should they call, etc., etc., etc.  One neighbor already had FIOS in his shore home and liked it enough to drop his cable at his home also.
OK, how much money did we save? When I called to order, the woman asked me what package I wanted and what was the price I saw advertised. I was a little taken back by the question and hesitated. I then told her I saw TV/Telephone and 20/5 Internet advertised for $94.95 a month. She responded with "That will work for us". Pleasantly surprised, I told her to "Sign us up."  In 72 hrs we had FIOS. We did however have to sign up for a two-year service contract as is also required by the cable company for the same package.

The reasons that made me switch to Verizon FIOS.
At this time for basically the same package, Cable is $159.95 - FIOS is $94.95 both are less extras with a two year signup. That's an amazing $65. a month savings and includes a much faster internet. Our FIOS speed tests usually show 20400kbps Down and 4200kbps up. This is very fast...  Also, we find our VOIP is much clearer than with cable. It may be because the speed is almost triple than what it was with cable. More surprises below, see updates.

Verizon charged us a $29.00 one time service charge to cover what, I don't remember...  We live in New Jersey so prices and installation times may vary. 

Cancel Cable Service day
The day I brought back all the hardware to the cable company, I couldn't wait to tell them about the price savings between Cable and FIOS but they didn't even ask why I cancelled their service. They should keep track of the reason people drop their service so they can improve their business. They didn't seem to care. Personally I think their attitude will change sooner than later.

Our FIOS Install
10/10/07

Three days after we placed the FIOS order they came for the install. Two trucks showed up. One with the equipment and a bucket truck to run the fiber down to the corner fiber junction box up on the pole. As soon as the cable was finished being hung and tested, the truck left. The installer was left to do the rest by himself. He told me he was fairly new and new little about computers. Seems they push the installers though school because they need them so badly. Whatever the case, he did a excellent clean job. 

From what I understand the fiber cable to the house has one strand of glass covered with Teflon or something like it. Over that was a Kevlar wrap and a plastic outer covering. The fiber can not be bent too sharply or it can break but a new type should be coming soon that can bend much more with no damage. The fiber cables are pre-terminated on both ends and come in different lengths. This is so they don't have to place a terminating connection in the field. Any extra fiber is coiled at the ends but never cut.  An ONT box goes outside of the house. This accepts one end of the fiber and converts the light to electric to be used by the Coax/CAT5 for TV and Internet. It also has four telephone plugs for up to 4 landlines. Inside the ONT is where the magic occurs. It converts the light to electrical signals and it has a small Laser to convert electrical back to light for outbound Internet data and TV requests. Here is one thing I could not understand. The ONT can accept either a Coax or a CAT5/5e/6 to run to the new Verizon router. I heard that using a CAT5/6 is better so I ran one before they came. They want their routers to be used but you can use another if you know what you are doing. You can also use your old router behind theirs. One of the reasons they want their router used is because the set-top TV boxes each have their own IP address on your network. They update them with fixes and time / weather settings and much more. They also can repair many problems without sending a serviceman out.   

A couple small holes are needed to run the wires from the outside ONT, into the basement. Inside the basement they install a power supply and battery backup for the phone service, and a TV coax splitter. This must have a wall outlet near by for the power supply. It can not be a power strip or an extension cord. Get this installed before you order your service.    
Also run new cables if required, such as a CAT5/5e/6 from your router location to the outside ONT location. They will use your old cable coax if new no new cable has been installed.  Coax or CAT5 can both be used so either is OK.
Your installation will vary depending on what service you get and how it is wired. Our install took six hours. He did a near perfect job with everything. They also seem to go out of their way to be helpful and answer all the questions before they leave.

After the install was complete, the serviceman did an equipment check.  We experienced two small problems. The internet was dead so he called his people and found the ONT was programmed by default for coax between the ONT and router instead of the CAT6 I ran. They fixed this from the office in a minute. The only other problem was with the telephone. We had a local radio station blasting in. He said "No problem" and  it wasn't.  A tiny filter was put in the box outside and the connection was very clear.
As soon as he left, I started to setup my network on the new router. They gave us a Verizon Actiontec MI424WR Rev.C router. This was the only thing that gave me problems.  If you need to make any changes to this router such as port forwarding etc. you better download the full manual from Verizons website. Be sure you get the correct manual for your router. You will need it.  Trying to make a simple setting change was confusing. I never had such trouble doing something that should have been a simple task.  After I read the manual and struggled through the changes it worked perfectly. My wireless reached another building where we backup our files each night without a problem. We have 11 devices connected to our network, including a network camera, 5 computers and more. Some use a small Netgear 4 port switch after the router giving us the extra ports. Using Network Magic, I check the logs. Never has any device dropped from the network nor have we lost internet connectivity. I find this interesting after reading about the older routers having problems. One thing I wish the router had was higher wireless speed (n) but it works well.

I heard from a Verizon line worker that new electronics will be available soon that can run at 100Mbs or 1000kbps as they have now in Japan and South Korea. I wonder what they will charge for this service. When this speed is available for a reasonable price, the cable companies will go the way dialup is going now. Imagine that...

A good feature that they don't tell you about.
We have an old 25" RCA TV but we didn't want to spend more money for another set top box. After looking at the back of the set top box in another room I saw that the TV was using HDMI connection form the box. I also noticed it had a coax connection so I connected the coax to the other old TV and because it was close enough to use the remote, I now have all channels on both TV's from one box. No HD on the old set but very clear reception on all channels. The box output sends a signal from all outputs. This is a nice feature that they don't tell you about. Of course I could have just plugged this old TV into the splitter and received just the basic channels but this way we get all channels we pay for on this old TV also.

So far everything is just fine. If we have problems they will be posted here.

Update:
Ok we had a problem, but nothing serious. Our TV and Internet went down at 10: pm. It should be noted that our landline telephone did not go down nor did our Verizon telephone.  I called the help line at 10:15 pm and the support person was baffled. They just could not find the problem. They said they would have a person at the house the first thing in the morning.
At 7 AM I checked everything and the TV and Internet was working just fine. At 9:30 AM  I answered the door and two verizon support people were standing there. I said I called to cancel the call at 7 AM as all was working now. They said yes, they know that. "We are stopping at each account to explain and to apologize for your outage"  "We had a system wide outage, and it was the first time this happened. Everything should be OK now.' WOW, this was a pleasant surprise.
 

Update: One month after install
We received a letter from verizon telling us that anyone getting the triple play and did not receive any promos will receive a free 19" Sharp LCD High Def. TV if install date is before 1/15/08. We are waiting for delivery. (See below update)

More information:
I did learn something interesting from their tech support. They had told me to shut off the power to the router for 10 sec. while I was on the phone to reset it. I said if I do that the landline telephone will go down. They said no it won't. Amazing, I shut off the power and it still worked fine. The reason was the FIOS phone service is a "Landline" service as before and not VOIP. They said it just uses fiber from the house to the switching center as opposed to copper. So far it's great. We do use another VOIP (Voice Wing) line with FIOS and this line would shut down if router is off, but it is less expensive than getting another FIOS number.

A word to the wise. You don't need any of the software that Verizon will want to install on your system such as Custom browser's, anti virus and backup software etc. Everything you need to connect is supplied with Windows. We did not choose to use any of their software. Much cleaner computer this way.
Also, the Actiontec MI424WR router has a built in business class hardware firewall. With this we felt we don't need firewall software which allows our computers run better and happier.
Landline phone - If your power goes out you will still be able to use your phone (Not a VOIP phone) for a couple hrs. It uses the installed battery backup they install. This backup also has an emergency button to press that will give you even more time to call 911 in an emergency.

Update: Two months after install
Our service is working however at times we must access our Verizon router for IP changes to our camera or wireless USB drive for port forwarding etc. Since yesterday we could not access the router settings anymore. After logging in we get  a "Too many sessions are open, please wait until open sessions expire" from the router.  The "sessions" never seem to expire so we can't access the router anymore. Power down the router does not help.
Getting through to Verizon phone tech support is a disaster to say the least. One hr. wait time is standard and this is after 10 minutes of computer prompts trying to auto repair the problem that you know it can't do.
When I did get through, their tech support person said it was not a problem they knew how to fix. In fact she said she never heard of it before. Amazing. So she told me to call a number of the router manufacturer and I refused to do this. The router is supplied by Verizon, why should we have to go to the manufacturer I said.  She then said she would call on a conference with me. Another hour of waiting for Actiontec. 
Router problem resolved: We found through trial and error that the router error of  "to many sessions open" was caused by the new version of 'Network Magic" software. If it is installed on only one computer it did not seem to interfere with the router but two or more computers using it caused and error. Tech. support at Network Magic said to use the older version until a firmware update was available for the Actiontec router. I'm not convinced that this was a firmware problem. I think perhaps this new version of Network Magic has problems. After removing Network Magic from other computers the router worked just fine.

Update: We received a letter today from Verizon. Our new Sharp 19" HD LCD TV is on the way. A gift for getting the package deal installed before 1/15/08.

There tech support does not support help with the router settings.  If you need help with anything other than the Default settings you out of luck.
Actiontec tech. support was good and answered our email in about 12 hrs.  Be sure you download the manual from Verizon.
Update: 11/17/08 After over a year, no regrets with FIOS. We really like it.

* Repair XP Pro - (Great program) The most comprehensive system repair tool
                                on the market. We use this program.