Scott Hanselman

Leaving Comcast for Verizon Fios - Upgrading the Home Network to Fiber Optic

April 21, '07 Comments [37] Posted in Reviews
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I've been increasingly disappointed with Comcast's Internet Service of late. Even though I pay a monthly premium on top of the regular rate for Internet Access, I'm rarely getting good throughput. This makes downloading big stuff like Orcas Beta 1 VMs more than a little irritating.

(Yes, I know American's are spoiled by good bandwidth at cheap prices. I realize this more than you might know. See my post on Bandwidth in the Bush.)

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that I'm paying US$50 a month for the 15/2 service.

I got fed up recently and decided to move over to Verizon Fios as I'd had it with Comcast and Verizon had already torn up my yard a few months back to get Fiber Optic Cable to my neighbor.

TIP: A Verizon Employee confirmed to me that the online database and an internal database of "Is FIOs available in my neighborhood" is NOT in sync. Be sure to call and ask them if it's available where you are. My house was not available when checking online, but WAS available when I called and talked to a human.

Installation

I called and made the appointment. The day came (today) and the guy showed up. He absolutely knew his stuff. He was careful not to bad-mouth Comcast, which was classy, but he was clear to express Fio's culture. His feeling was "massive bandwidth, reasonable price, do what you like." That's nice, because I didn't like hearing from Comcast when they think I'm using too much.

My neighbor had the fiber come to his house, then a box attached to the side of his house, then a battery backup in his garage. Then the Verizon guy installed Verizon's Wireless Router on the wall in his garage and put in a bunch of small PCI 802.11 cards. So his whole house is wireless. No hub, no closet. Great for him, not acceptable for me. There's a lot of traffic flowing on my network and I want both the throughput and comparative security of wires.

TIP: Plan your network layout before the installer arrives. I had, fortunately, three contingency plans.

Initially I was quite concerned, thinking that there'd be no way for the Verizon guy to get the Internet Service into my second floor where the wiring closet and punchdown block is. This is when he dropped this surprise on me. A few months back, he says, they got the OK and hardware to run their service over the last 100 or so feet inside your house using the existing Coax Cable you've likely already got strung. This was perfect for me, as I already went to the work of getting Cable into my computer room.

See the diagram below. Now the fiber comes in from the street, into the optical converter, then under my house and into my walls on 75Ohm Cable Coax then out of the wall in my computer area and into the Verizon Router. The router converts that one Coax Run into RJ-45 Ethernet, that I plug back into the the house, which in turn, lights the house up - exactly as it was - for Internet. I was VERY pleased with his installation and the process.

Router Software

When I heard that Verizon insists (you can change it when they leave, but they lower-case-i "insist") that you use their ActionTec MI424WR Router as your first level router, I was thinking "I'll be damned if I'm going to give up my DD-WRT LinkSys Router after all the work I put into the whole network topology, QoS, and what-not.

The installer dude was sympathetic, and we chained the two with the Verizon Router basically neutered and just forwarding traffic along. This allowed Verizon to do whatever diagnostic magic probing they want and I could keep my existing stuff exactly as it was.

However, after he left, I started poking around the Actiontec's Web Interface, and upgraded its firmware to 4.0.16.1.45.160. I must say, it's really quite powerful once you get into the deeper parts of the system, bypassing all the safety warnings.

TIP: Make a hard-copy report of all your networked devices and their MAC addresses. It'll be easier to figure out who got what address later if those devices don't have names.

I decided to copy (manually) all my DHCP lease settings, uPnP stuff, QoS rules, Port Forwarding (for Windows Home Server, etc) and some other things over to the new router. Not only was I able to get it all up and working in about 90 minutes, but it actually feels quite a bit snappier than the LinkSys. The LinkSys would get really sluggish when the network was working overtime. This ActionTek one works great. I was pleasantly surprised. Now I've got two LinkSys Wireless Routers that need a home.

Current Network Map

Here's how things look currently. I consolidated inside the wiring closet, and while there's two RJ-45 ports in each room in the house, for now I'm getting away with one 8-port hub into the closet, and the built-in 4-port hub on the ActionTek Router.

TIP: Just as it's useful to have a Family Backup Strategy and accompanying diagram, it's useful to have a Current Network Map for your spouse in case you get hit by a bus. If you've got knowledge that exists only in your head, write it down.

Conclusion

I'm off to cancel Comcast Internet next week. Personally, I'd completely given up on Verizon many years ago and had long left them for dead. I'm completely surprised with the smoothness of the whole experience. Hopefully the uptime for FIOs will turn out good as well. I may also switch away from Vonage, given the current lawsuit, and move over to Verizon using this same network.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007 7:28:36 AM UTC

What typical speeds do you get with BitTorrent with FiOS? (Verizon spells it FiOS). Do web pages load a lot faster? Maybe not web pages but faster videos like from YouTube could make a big difference.

I have Comcast as my cable TV and Internet provider. The bandwidth I get with BitTorrent do not fill my bandwidth so either Comcast is throttling BitTorrent traffic and/or the BitTorrent seeders are slow. If the seeders are slow, getting a faster connection would not help much. As for >1G downloads, I am patient enough to let the download run overnight. FiOS is available for me and I am wating till they offer cable TV and switch the whole bundle. It's good Comcast and Verizon will be competing in these services. We should expect lower fees and better services.

abdu
Saturday, April 21, 2007 8:23:26 AM UTC
I've had really good luck with Comcast in the bay area.

http://www.speedtest.net/result/116051929.png

I typically get ~600 kilobytes/sec down and ~60 kilobytes/sec up. The downloads can go above 1 megabyte/sec for really fast hosts (akamai, etc), but very few sites have that kind of bandwidth to give out to random downloaders, so it's kind of academic, really.

Those FIOS numbers are great though. How much does it cost?
Saturday, April 21, 2007 8:37:03 AM UTC
Hi Scott,

It would be nice if you could post some photo's of the wiring closet :-) Just wanna have a peek if yours is also such a cable disaster as mine is :-)

Saturday, April 21, 2007 11:13:17 AM UTC
That looks awfully nice Scott. I wish we had that kind of access around here, but at least were I live, pretty much I'm as good as it gets for residential narrow-band (as I call it): 523/123 kbps. Our provide (unfortunately there's pretty much only one) sells in theory up to 1500 kps, but it costs a small fortune and I'm pretty sure it has exactly the same upload as the lower packages, which means it's way to asymmetric to be worth the cost
Saturday, April 21, 2007 12:30:06 PM UTC
I see you have Vonage in the mix. Have you started switching to another provider? I also have Vonage but haven't done anything with it yet. I think they have the best deal going right now and don't want to switch unless I absolutely have to. I'm hoping some miracle pulls them out of this legal pit their in. I'm just hoping I don't loose my phone number if they go under too fast.
Rick Arthur
Saturday, April 21, 2007 1:18:24 PM UTC
Hey Scott, I've been one of the earliest FIOS customers. They used my town for their initial testing in Texas. I've had it for coming on 3 years, and I have not had a single outtage. And the speed stays as advertised. It is unreal service, and you will love it. Feel good when you get rid of Comtastic.
Saturday, April 21, 2007 2:44:52 PM UTC
I switched about 6 months ago and have had absolutley no problems. Combined with their FIOS tv service (w/ a number of premium channels), Im paying ~$100, $20 less than I was for Comast w/ only HBO.

(irrelevant Comcast story)
I had called Comcast a number of times to see if they could match at least the rate (I knew the speed was out of the question, but I was pretty happy with them in thier capacity as an ISP). They repeatedly told me "No", and that any advertised specials I might have seen were for new customers only. With Fios in place, and a 12 month contract signed, I called comcast to cancel. Thier response? Of course we can match that price -- we'll even give you a speed bump and 12 free months of phone service... Lesson learned...

Joe
Saturday, April 21, 2007 2:55:27 PM UTC
I meant Comcastic. doh.
Saturday, April 21, 2007 3:00:14 PM UTC
Really nice post!

Great ideas and tips that are applicable for any broadband service changes; new or upgrade.

Thanks for taking the time put it together! I'm saving this link for future reference!
Saturday, April 21, 2007 3:34:01 PM UTC
I hate seeing horror stories about cable companies. I get better speeds on my dsl than you do on your cable (http://www.speedtest.net/result/116157857.png)

I am a contractor for a local cable company and I don't see how people stay in business like this. Our base package is 6.5 by 768 (top package is 10 by 3) and we definably know when people aren't getting the service they pay for because they let us know. If you can't give them the speed they want they will switch to a competitors in a heartbeat.

The optical to coax think is kinda cool. I assume that your TV is still coax too right? I wonder if the ONT (the "Optical Thing") has a special converter for that or if they use the same one they use for TV.
Saturday, April 21, 2007 5:51:48 PM UTC
Tony - Oh, ya, I forgot to mention, they used a special converter/shifter that let the FiOs run on the same Coax as the TV. I had to ask for it explicitly. I'll update this post with some pics.
Saturday, April 21, 2007 6:19:55 PM UTC
The SpeedTest.Net results can be pretty variable. I tried the San Jose server (a mere 50 miles from me and the "recommended" test server) and got 600k down / 350k up. Then I tried the Los Angeles server (350 miles away) and got 3739k down(!) / 350k up. The Salt Lake City server gave me 1955k down / 360k up. Portland gave me 2872k / 358k. Repeated tests against the Los Angeles server produced results anywhere from 2500k to 4000k download (but always around 350-360k upload).

This is all on Comcast.
Saturday, April 21, 2007 7:03:51 PM UTC
Nice - I only wish I had FiOS available here! The best I can do is cable as the DSL is as bad as it gets.

:) It will be interesting to see how your Vonage works over a Verizon service. I wonder if it will be throttled at all.
Saturday, April 21, 2007 7:09:25 PM UTC
We just got FIOS last Friday, I like it so far, we had Verizon DSL before which was fine..
Looking at my download speed I see 2350 kbps most of the time.

In Florida they have a package deal, $59.99 a month for phone w/unlimted long distance and internet so I jumped on it.
horace west
Saturday, April 21, 2007 7:11:05 PM UTC
Great post. I wish we had fiber out here in the sticks. :)

I have to point out (okay more like preach) one thing on a tangent topic... You said: "Just as it's useful to have a Family Backup Strategy and accompanying diagram, it's useful to have a Current Network Map for your spouse in case you get hit by a bus."

Which is reasonably thoughtful, heh. But before anyone goes out and buys FIOS broadband, computers, toys, software, or anything else like that, make sure you have already purchased plenty of life insurance and are leaving little to no debt. Without insurance to fall back on, your bus accident will leave your spouse with much bigger problems than figuring out the intricate details of the widowed home network. ;-)

Sorry - kinda hit home recently with a family I know.
Saturday, April 21, 2007 8:23:22 PM UTC
You house has more networked devices than some small countries :) I was wondering if you have something in mind to replace the soon-to-be-history Vonage. The irony is that Verizon is the one behind their deminse.
Sergio Pereira
Sunday, April 22, 2007 12:19:10 AM UTC
I was lucky enough to get FiOS almost 2 years ago. Then a month later we decided to move and a month after that we were gone. So long FiOS: I hardly even knew ya. It was sweet while it lasted. Whole dvds downloading in under an hour. Very nice indeed. But alas we moved to the country where I was forced to use my cellphone as a wireless modem for 3 months before I could finally get Adelphia to bless us with cable. I think I would've had an easier time getting access to their NOC than I did getting them to hook up the cable.

Scott. I really love your very detailed and highly technical network diagram. I tried looking up "Optical Thing" and alas it doesn't seem to appear in any of the networking literature I have found. Must be some west coast thing ;-)
Sunday, April 22, 2007 1:46:53 AM UTC
Been on FIOS for nearly 3 years now. I just got the FIOS TV too...wait till you see what they did with the Motorola HD DVR...its almost as good as Tivo Series 3 with the verizon software. Made me feel like opening up the device to see if it was really a Motorola inside. Comcast's version of the exact same device was should be nominated for worst device evar.
Sunday, April 22, 2007 6:42:54 AM UTC
Scott, Glad that you got hooked up with FiOS. I got it hooked up last summer and have never looked back to our cable internet connection. The speed and reliability with Fios is much better than cable. With 15mbit we finally have enough bandwidth for the whole house. My kids are happy because they have the bandwidth for their online games. Bit torrent, streaming video, and remote desktop sessions all fly. I'm a Web designer and ftp and online development is so much nicer with the 2mbit upstream. It's been a real plus for our house.
Sunday, April 22, 2007 3:46:13 PM UTC
Lucky Guys all of you.... I get 111 Kbps download and about 100 Kbps upload on my internet connection (I have got the best plan on offer... the advertised speeds are 256 Kbps).

I would love to be able to get 1/10th of what Scott is getting :)
Monday, April 23, 2007 7:47:07 AM UTC
Hi Scott, your link to Bandwidth in the Bush is incorrect and points to the Microsoft Orcas Beta!
Monday, April 23, 2007 1:13:23 PM UTC
I was skeptical of the ActionTec at first as well but I still have the LinkSys since it's a FON router (http://www.fon.com) and have been VERY happy with it since the jump. The only gotcha that I've found with FiOS is the blocking of port 80 but unless you're hosting a web server at home it's not a big deal.
Monday, April 23, 2007 1:49:31 PM UTC
Curses, Scott! The day you post this marked day one of my four-day-and-counting FiOS outage. I'm blaming you.

Seriously, though, don't get rid of your cable modem just yet. I'm paying $370/month for 30Mb/5Mb on their "business" service, which supposedly has better reliability (and static IPs, no port blocking, etc), but the service still goes down frequently. Last time a root damaged the line; this time it will probably turn out to be a squirrel or something. Evidently glass is much more brittle than copper. (Who would have thought?)
Monday, April 23, 2007 3:52:59 PM UTC
FIOS is available where I live (Princeton). I have no problems with Comcast (right now). The problem I had was that I was downloading Orcas Beta 1 when everyone else was downloading it also. FIOS would not have helped me in that case since the problem was with MS. Right now I don't need the speed that FIOS offers but I am sure that will change once IPTV starts going.....
Monday, April 23, 2007 4:27:50 PM UTC
"they used a special converter/shifter that let the FiOs run on the same Coax as the TV"

What you're referring to is probably a MoCA interface: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multimedia_over_Coax_Alliance

BTW, you compared the FIOS/Comcast bandwidth speeds but not the prices. So where did you get FIOS service and how much was it per month (compared to Comcast)?
Dan McCarty
Monday, April 23, 2007 6:33:37 PM UTC
Dan - I'm paying $50 a month for 15/2.
Monday, April 23, 2007 7:13:57 PM UTC
I'm getting raped by Qwest DSL and they can't even communicate over the phone when I try to call them(.12 down/.03 up). I was thinking of switching over to Comcast because my apartment building definitly doesn't have fiber. Your comcast bandwidth seems really bad compared to the averages that www.dslreports.com shows for recent tests.
Monday, April 23, 2007 11:12:23 PM UTC
Just wanted to let you know I switched to FiOS in the Beaverton area a little over a year ago, also getting Verizons VOIP and have yet to experience a down time yet. I'm really happy with it. The installer also let me use my own router, just told me to plug in the Verizon one if I make a service call. For me it was a significant step up in service from comcast, and I and my family are very happy with it.
Derek Christman
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 7:05:37 PM UTC
I would love to switch to FiOS but it seems that their website cannot locate my address or any address near me. However, I read through their FAQ and their terms of service, and you are not allowed to host ANYTHING for ANY PURPOSE according to what's on their website (direct link: http://www22.verizon.com/content/consumerfios/faqs/faqs.htm#fios_feat_q10). Is there some sort of small business hosting package that they have? I couldn't find one on their site.
Jeff
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 10:36:10 PM UTC
I've been eye-balling the FiOS service for a while, and the biggest hurdle for me was that my home was pre-wired with a cat-5, and a distribution block in the upstairs closest... But only coax out into the garage where the FiOS service would come in. Did the installer happen to say if the Optical Thingy (tm) is something they all carry in their van, or would it need to be requested in advance? I've tried asking Verizon, but it's been slow getting a response...
Troy
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 10:59:32 PM UTC
@Jeff
DasBlog wouldn't let me post the link (it thought I was comment spamming?) but if you Google "verizon fios business" it is the first result. HTH
Thursday, April 26, 2007 2:37:45 AM UTC
I switched from Comcast to Verizon last January. I have been satisfied with the service. But when the bill came it was 4 pages and very confusing, due to the fact that I also subscribe to the TV service. The worst part was the total amount due was $30 more per month than what I was initially quoted.

Looking closer I saw three charges for things that I had no clue of what they were. A few items later I would see the same items listed again, but this time with a minus sign in front of the charge indicating a credit. The problem was that in each case the amount credited was roughly 50 cents less than what was charged.

I decided to call the number on the statement for billing inquiries. After 5 minutes of anwering questions (some more than once by different IVR extensions) I finally reached a voicemail telling me the billing office was closed for the day. It was 8pm CDT.

I decided to pay the bill online including the extra charges. My work day is very busy. Maybe I can find some time to call them during lunch.

Perhaps I'm just a bit miffed knowing that I have paid nearly $20,000 in CATV bills over the last 20 years and it hasn't gotten any easier.

Spazoo
Friday, April 27, 2007 5:43:55 PM UTC
I had this installed when I built my house, its freaking great! First thing I did however was dump the Verizon router almost immediately for my D-Link one since I wanted the extra functionality. You don't need the Verizon one as long as you have all the relevant information. Been in my house for 1 year and 4 months now and the internet has gone down ZERO times. Absolutely none, how brilliant is that?
Monday, May 21, 2007 6:43:43 PM UTC
I just wanted to put my 2 cents to the group. Verizon subcontractors came to run the cable from the street to my house. Started the installation on Feb.21 It was raining that day and the cable subcontractors told me I would have to call back to reschedule. It took me 10 calls over a 2 month period. Finally got my cable installed on April 21. I now have 2 tracts about 10 feet long and 4inches deep from the ditchwitch. They lifted my front walkway about 1". May 1st I had the cable hooked up. Took the tech about 5 hrs to install. I'm not happy at all with the tv compared to comcast. The DVR will not look for all channells of a series program. Even if I set the DVR to record entire series it does not record subsequent programs. Comcast On Demand has about 20 network series for regular tv. FIOS On Demand has movie trailers a lot of programs I'm not interested in. HBO is about the only thing that is kinda useful On Demand, but it takes several weeks for a HBO Series(Sopranos) to show up so that's basically useless.

Bottom line, FIOS cable seems to be slightly faster, but truthfully I don't think i need more then the 5mb that comcast offers.

The offerings for the TV end is almost useless.
Tomz
Monday, June 04, 2007 3:50:32 PM UTC
for us comcast had also become slow, unreliable, and expensive. Switched to Verizon fios in virginia , much better!
carol
Thursday, June 07, 2007 5:43:52 AM UTC
I just switched from Comcast to Verizon FiOS last month. The service is great, but my first bill had a surprise $400 installation charge! Of course, I am disputing it. Their claim is that they installed a bunch of new TV outlets, which they absolutely did not. They did pull new coax to my own distribution node, but I don't even think that was necessary - nor was I informed of any installation charge whatsoever. Has anyone else been billed like this?

There's a name for undisclosed, unauthorized charges... it's called fraud and it's illegal.
Matt
Monday, June 11, 2007 4:34:35 AM UTC
I got FIOS last November because of my husband. His bright idea to bundle all three services (Cable Modem, Phone, TV) has been my worst nightmare. Our Internet service goes out and cycles on and off all day long, causing the Internet to go down and closing windows I needed open, the FIOS box flips the GFCI on my outlet all the time and the Motorolas don't perform to standard. I've already had to replace one box and the other one doesn't do what it said it would (play recorded material in another room on another box). I've hated almost every minute of it and after FOUR years of Bright House where honestly, we didn't even lose cable through 3 direct hurricane hits..UGH!
Oh, and can I even BEGIN to complain about the idea that if we lose power, it's three-four hours of phone and no TV on the battery power? Great. So when we have storms (yoo hoo, it's FLORIDA) I guess we won't need the phone beyond 4 hours?
Shanon
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.