Leaving Comcast for Verizon Fios - Upgrading the Home Network to Fiber Optic
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.
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.
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 188.8.131.52.45.160. 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.
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.