Written by: scottmc
Categories: Cool Stuff, News, Reviews
Verizon is spending $20 billion upgrading its network to provide fiber to the home, a new network running fiber optic cable for voice, internet and TV/Entertainment applications. I was one of the first in line to swap out my Comcast services. Why?
Good old-fashioned, raw, American speed, of course. While Comcast Internet provides anywhere from 4-8Mbps downloading and somewhere between 500-768K upload service, performance wavers substantially during typical usage. For the same price, I could get Verizonâ€™s middle tier service, offering 15Mbps downloads and 2Mbps uploading speed. Pricing may vary in some regions, but the basic options are as follows:
All with free installation. And unlike cable, fiber technology promises to be “truer” to its rated speeds. You can run a bandwidth tester such as http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest, and see what youâ€™re getting now with your current provider. So far with FIOS, Iâ€™m almost always getting the advertised download speeds, and come very close with the upload speeds as well.
How well does it work? Everything speeds up, for sureâ€¦and many times, it feels like websites and servers are serving content as fast as they can and their service, not your home service, has become the bottleneck. FIOS speed is great, and tops even the very reasonable performance of cable modems. If youâ€™re on standard DSL or dial-up, it will feel like youâ€™ve just tooled onto the Autobahn in a high end BMW. (And youâ€™ll have fun fun fun till your daddy takes your FIOS away?)
The FIOS installation was complicatedâ€¦for the installers, at least, not for me. Total elapsed time on installation in my house was 9.5 hours, and with not one but two installers on-site for at least half that time. First, the fiber is run to the house from the streetâ€¦that was done on the Sunday prior to my install. Verizon’s fiber network is a long term investment, meant to upgrade their network, reduce long term maintenance costs, and enable Verizon to provide the same bundle of services, including digital phone and TV/Entertainment, that its competitors in the cable industry are offering. (In Massachusetts, incidentally, Verizon does not yet have permission to remove copper wire as they rewire the state with fiber. But since they are still taxed on the copper that is no longer in service, they will return someday, once their legislative issues are resolved, to REMOVE the old copper wire on the poles.) All this time, Iâ€™m just thinking this must be costing the company a fortune. My installation charges were minimal. Installation was basically free, along with the first month’s service.
First the installers arrived and mounted a fairly large, maybe 12″x18″ plastic, locked switchbox on the outside of the house. This takes the fiber lead from the street and routes it to two additional boxes in the basement. One, a switch that sends CAT5e out to the internet service and standard phone lines out to the phone jacks in the house. The other, a battery backup system that potentially means service would continue to both phone and Internet during a power outage. (I guess if you had a generator you could surf the web in a hurricane.)
The installation began at 10:30 am, and at 3:30pm, the technician announced that my standard phone service had been successfully migrated to fiber. Then we began snaking the CAT5e cable up from my basement to my third floor office. I also had them run another line of CAT5e down to the first floor, so that I have full wired access in my kitchen, which I later connected to my old D-Link wireless router, configured as a switch, adding a second, “downstairs” network to the house. My wireless network now operates at full speed in every room of my home.
Verizon provided an ActionTec router that has 4 wired ports and wireless built-in, a rather large box, but easy enough to configure. I’ve also heard that Verizon will sometimes install a D-Link router, but the techs seemed to think the ActionTecâ€™s are higher quality. At this location I have my MacBook and my PC KVM’d to share a monitor, and both get a wire. So far this router has already had some issues. It drops wireless connections under load sometimes, and Verizon has replaced it once for me already. I’m also pretty sure that every time a machine on my network runs iTunes, at least on Windows clients, when iTunes completes updating podcasts, it does something that causes this router to reboot itself. My router logs are filled with soft resets even after replacement, and you can hit “Refresh” on the podcast screen and reliably generate a soft router boot. Carumba.
Verizon provides a software bundle for users who want some ISP hand holding, but I refused to allow the techs to install this on any of my machines. There is an option to have a Yahoo! based portal front page (including a Yahoo-based email address) or to use “Verizon Central”â€¦www.verizoncentral.net, a web-based portal featuring Verizon support content and links to MSN portals. You have to choose, since the choice you make determines who hosts your email accounts. The service includes 9 email addresses, web mail, a “Personal web space” for site hosting and photo sharing, and an online backup service.
Average Content, But The Service Screams
These portal options look very similar to offerings from Comcast and other ISP providers. The real difference for FIOS is performance. I’ve yet to see wired access drop far below the advertised 15mbps, and while wireless connections to the router may drop into the 12-14 range, that’s still nearly twice the connectivity as my former cable modem. The service is just screaming fast.
Verizon’s support during the install was adequate. The phone techs are clearly just gearing up to support this new network, but so far they are providing 24×7 coverage and the techs have hung in there with me for the most part. (I actually called at 1am one weekend night.) Once in awhile you still get that old telco feeling: when the tech came to replace my router, he had no work order telling him what he was there for. I had to tell him to replace the router and run all the wire diagnostics. The service comes pre-configured for secure WEP-based wireless access as well. I like the fact that this doesn’t leave your network security to chance. Everyone gets WEP by default, and that protection may not be perfect, but at least it leaves your network protected from drive-by intruders.
Mac-ready Installation Process
It’s gratifying to see that Verizon is ready to configure Macs to support FIOS, and the tech told me they were trained to run the install process on the Mac at the “FIOS school” they’d all just attended. For me, using FIOS with the Mac was as simple as plugging in an Ethernet cable. Then you point Safari or Firefox at some gigantic download and watch it fly home.
FIOS is formidable, which must be why Comcast is fighting back by offering a year of very discounted services to its loyal customers. Tempting as that may be, I have to choose the speed. A week after my install, I signed up to get the TV services. If youâ€™re looking to bring your home network up to speed and you live in an area where the network is getting upgraded, FIOS smokes all the standard competition.
To find out if FIOS is available in your area, see www.verizon.com.
I have had FiOS since may after switching away from Optimum Online (from Cablevision). By then my download speeds had dropped below 1 megabit, when they said they had just upgraded to 15. FiOS is true to its advertisements. In my area, westchester, new york, we can get either:
According to speak easy, my speed is:
19,879 kbps down and 5,065 up. There’s nothing like getting more than you paid for.
Interesting. Are those rates at the same price points? If so, hey, I’m slightly envious!
Verizon’s been on quite a media blitz here in Boston since rolling out the upgraded network in July…planes flying over with branded messages, etc.
In my area at least, Comcast is offering a full year of seriously discounted service to combat it…which may prove to be a very effective strategy for those who don’t feel the need for speed quite so acutely. It’s a bit like watching godzilla and rodin fight overhead…there are sparks flying from the powerlines, but it’s a bit out of our normal dimensions…
i have the 15mbps/2mbps and for a while it was working great but now the speed has dropped a whole lot even though speed tests show it with 12mbps down, the sites that like apple use to rocket around now they are just plain slow.
When well it get to Oz?
I live in australia and im stuck with a 2oo Kb/s !
Anyone know when we will get fast internet.
its so s l o w ! ! !
can we keep to topics for mac users, rather than adding a topic, then adding a wee bit at the bottom for mac users!
This was a great article, good to hear about where broadband technology’s going – good news for Apple too, this will surely help its movies to fly down the pipes faster.
At the risk of sounding like a gumpy foreigner, though, we’re still at 2 Mb/s in most areas in Britain, if you’re lucky, and this service doesn’t look like it will be coming any time soon. Obviously the MacCast is based in the US, but you must be aware that there are international listeners too (Rozza above is from Australia, for example)! These new blog posts have all been really great and informative so far, but it would be amazing if they stayed Mac-focussed (there’re plenty of places to pick up general tech news, after all) and vaguely internationally appealing. Hope that’s not too unreasonable!
(Looks like I failed with the grumpy foreigner thing).
Not at all unreasonable! The Maccast bloggers are going to mixing it up with reviews, coverage of new product announcements, general Mac news and much other Mac-relevant coverage. I wasn’t trying to be irrelevant, and I certainly do not want to come off as parochial or US centric. The bloggers are in fact international, including the UK, and while we’re working out the kinks in our editorial calendar here, I figured I’d launch with this tale of a tech upggrade that I’d hoped at least some other mac users might be contemplating.
Our very explicit goal is to stay Mac-focused.
The internet is only as fast as the other end. I’m on 100mbit and I got
Download Speed: 2022 kbps (252.8 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 305 kbps (38.1 KB/sec transfer rate)
from Sweden to Washington. Not much jump for joy there.
I was going to leave a comment on 9-13-06 show where Adam was wondering about downloading time and sizes world wide “I don’t know how prolific that is world wide?”regarding downloading movies on itunes.
Adam I can answer your question for broadband in France.
Check that out:
Free.fr offers Dsl 28 Mbit/s (internet,TV, Telephone)Wifi connection-Routeur 5 ports and up to 10 Go for personnal webpage for how much? how much?
29.99 euros/month (tax included)
Isn’t it amazing?
And with that you don’t even need to suscribe to a telephone company it all comes together.
When I see the prices here in the U.S i’m totally amazed.I have the feeling to be screwed after what have known in France.
And this is one company among others like neuf.fr that offers about the same thing.
If you want a complete list(in French) of all the providers in France here is a link: http://www.dslvalley.com/adsl/offres-adsl.php
erm…’me’ said “can we keep to topics for mac users” … im sorry you obviously don’t use the internet on your mac, oh i get it you must have written that comment from your pc… well why did you read it, if it wasnt for macs? you obviously don’t want any information unless it has ‘mac’ in every paragraph. how is it up there on your mac pedastal? you might want to try http://www.macwithoutinterentcast.com
personally i think this is directly related to anyone using the internet and therfore the majority of mac users… and what a great in depth article, very well written. thanks
Thank you very much for your reply. I have just looked at the staff page, and can feel the egg trickling down my face as I realise that the team is made up of people from all over the world.
And I didn’t mean for my comment to sound too negative â€” the article was very well written, and I appreciate the heads-up about the really fast internet speeds coming. It would be great if the MacCast website would be a place for Mac users to come with any of their questions about how to use their computers, and that would include getting on the internet. That’s the kind of resource that seems to be developing here, thanks to your work, and thank you for that.
I wondered if I could ask for suggestions about something â€” a lot of the broadband providers here in the UK say that their stuff will work with Macs, but that they don’t provide any official support. I guess most of the time this isn’t a real problem â€” Macs are easy to use, after all â€” but do you have any suggestions about ways to put pressure in them to offer this support (if you think it would actually be beneficial)? This may not be the place to ask this question, if so don’t worry.
So thank you again for your reply, and article, and I hope I didn’t come across as too critical.
what is the connectiont to the actiontech also what modle of actiontech
Scornn: The ActionTec gets a Cat5e though it could potentially take Coax as well. The model is M1426WR, and far as I can tell, this model is built specifically for VZ.
W: I think it’s good that out the outset, the Maccast bloggers be reminded to be global, and I think I took your note the right way, and thanks for the comments.
I don’t know the right way to make the Mac presence known to large, dumb institutions. I think Apple will help by selling a lot of Macbooks and Mac Pros…and then your voice is one among a larger market share. Apple’s 2006 numbers look very encouraging so far…I do believe there’s a Mac resurgence afoot.
Another place though you see it here in the states: Macs have traditionally dominated the education market here, and schools often had them. In those dark days in 90s, parent groups started lobbying school boards to move to PCs, “real computers like the ones we use in our offices” etc. I’ve heard schools boast about their PC inventory. But OSX is now more “real” and far more functional than any standard issue PIII running Windows 98 you might find in the middle school computer lab. Market share has a bitter momentum.
If Apple picks up a few points this year and next year, I think the industry will pay attention…
(perhaps other viewers might have more concrete suggestions?)
Ok now to represent the other side, a comment from a technician for Bright House Networks, a Verizon competitor.
While Verizon does offer great internet speeds at comparable prices to cable (at least to Bright House Networks cable internet), the differences aren’t much and in some cases apples are being compared to oranges.
The Tampa Bay area is blessed to have one of the most technologically advanced cable systems in the country and consequently some of the fastest available residential internet speeds. We offer speed up to 15/2 to residential customers, with no real reason why that could not be increased if there were a demand for it. This speed is $15 more than the current basic rate of 7/2 (I know that is fast for the base rate, but we are awesome, we keep increasing the speed without charing any more).
Because the price that was quoted for the 15/2 Verizon speed is with a 1 year commitment and is more without the commitment, the price is roughly the same when this is taken into account.
The interesting thing is that it didn’t take a $20 Billion upgrade, or 9.5 hours to install this capability. Additionally, Bright House Networks was rated to be the best residential phone service (which is voip) by JD Power and Associates, Verizon, who has been in business for many years is rated #7.
While I am sure that Verizon offers a reliable service for what is now a decent price, they will most certainly have to change this in order to pay for the substantial system upgrades.
Ultimately consumers will decide what work best for them, I just wanted to give the other side.
Besides all the normal praises (justifiably) for FIOS performance, I had an experience with their service this past week. While running Fiber from the hub to my neighbor’s house, they accidentally cut the fiber to my house which apparently hadn’t been buried very deep. Within an hour they had it fixed, and before two hours were up the Verizon guy was out to hook up the new fiber line to the ONT on my house. I probably lost internet access for just over 3 hours.
I was impressed that they gave priority to fixing the mistake immediately – no doubt if something had happened to my Comcast cable it would have taken over a day just to get them to understand they needed to send someone out, let alone the issue of when the person would have actually shown up.
My only beef is they keep sending express shipment envelopes with letters inviting me to sign up for Fios. That can’t be cheap, and if they’d just check their @#%#@ records they’d notice that I already am a customer. Dar…
I thought I’d throw my hat into all of this. The Verizon FIOS is amazing, it’s true. The speeds realized are actually the speeds advertised and that’s great. I have really enjoyed the FIOS until we had some administrative issues.
It seems that Verizon corporate blocks port 80. A friend and I have been hosting a website from his house without any problem. It’s a small website I promise. With his Verizon DSL, everything worked like a charm; we were never limited by bandwidth. When things started picking up (and verizon laid fiber in his neighborhood), we upgraded him to FIOS. Everything went to crap and we’re still finding little bugs we’re fixing from switching over to a hosting company.
Verizon offers a business lines starting at $100/month in my area and they open port 80 for you. It would be worth it if we really needed the dedicated reliability, but we just want to host a puny little website. It would have cost us about $60/month to rent port 80 from Verizon so we passed.
Fair warning: don’t plan on any hosting unless you want to shell out about 3x what the residential plan costs.