Making the switch to FIOS

Verizon FIOS just scored very high in a Consumer Reports satisfaction survey while Comcast was confined to the cellar. That along with promotions from Verizon convinced me to switch to FIOS. With trepidation, of course...
Written by John Dodge, Contributor

Next Monday, Verizon comes to my house to install Verizon FIOS for TV, Internet, Phone and probably something else I'm forgetting.

I was beginning to get cold feet given that any disruption in service could be a catastrophe. Indeed, a neighbor did cancel, but in the Feb. issue of Consumer Reports (CR) survey, FIOS scored very high while my present provider Comcast fared badly. More on the CR survey in a moment.

So my wife and I are getting ready for a brave new world of different channel numbers and a remote with alien buttons after 14 years of Comcast and all its predecessors in my neighborhood (Highway1 which became MediaOne Express which became AT&T Broadband which became Comcast...). Now for the first time, we blissfully have a choice.

My business of writing, reporting and bloviating for you and others depends on fast and reliable Internet access - so much so I have Verizon mobile broadband through my Blackberry as a backup in case the home link goes down. Lately, it hasn't, but at times recently, Comcast has been unbearably slow.

Will FIOS fiber survive the hostile environment of my driveway culvert? Snow now, water in the spring.

Here's the rub with FIOS. Actually, what makes me hesitate is the weather. Verizon has to lay a temporary cable so the FIOS box in the front yard can reach my house. That's because the ground is frozen, which makes boring under my driveway impossible to facilitate the most direct route.

The shortest route to run the temporary line is through a culvert (see photo) under the driveway or lay 2-3 times as much fiber to circumvent the driveway at the back of the house. In the spring, Verizon promises to come back to lay a permanent line through a small bore beneath the driveway.

My fear is whether the cable can withstand life in the culvert and above ground abuse. Verizon technical says `no sweat.' Also, I wonder if once Verizon has me on the hook for a year's service contract which is the price of all its widely-publicized promotions to get consumers to switch, it'll take its sweet time finishing the job. Then my concern becomes destroying the line with the lawn mower.

The temporary FIOS line starts at the box, then disappears into a 25-foot culvert (opening at shovel), reverses direction and runs 75 feet to the house.

Regardless, FIOS pricing is hard to resist. After the $180 off promotion ends for me in six months, the price for comparable service to Comcast (phone, HBO, Internet and two HD boxes and one with DVR) will be about $15 a month less than Comcast because Verizon has woken up to rewarding loyal customers. Verizon Wireless customers like me get $15 off a month for FIOS (FIOS had a bit of running start: I have been happy with Verizon Wireless except for its failure to offer the iPhone).

Customer loyalty or lack thereof is where Comcast lost me. When it started offering new customers promotional deals that were unavailable to me, I, the long time and loyal customer, was infuriated. Only recently did Comcast knock $40 from our north of $200 monthly bill when we made noises about defecting to another vendor.

Loyal Comcast customers were penalized while new customers got the best deals. The airlines have figured it out: people who fly the most get the best seats.

The CR rankings, which arrived in the mail this morning's mail, sealed the FIOS deal.

FIOS was ranked number two in Internet, Bundled Telecom and TV and number four while Comcast fared badly: 23rd in a field of 27 for Internet; 19th of 23 in phone; 14th of 16 in TV; and 11th of 12 for Bundled Telecom Services. Among other things, rankings were based on reliability, value, speed and support.

If you are familiar with CR's famous charts, the best Comcast did were empty black circles accompanied by just as many half or fully black circles. Execs at Comcast Philadelphia HQ have to be scrambling. I checked Comcast's online pressroom and could not find a response. In my book, CR's independent ratings are a pretty big deal.

Verizon has not trumpeted its good ratings, either - yet. Maybe it doesn't like being second. I tweeted FIOS and could not fund much complaining about it, but in asking around, few present FIOS customers I spoke with rave about it, either.

A service called WOW which stands for WideOpenWest ranked first in all CR's four categories. WOW must live up to name. I can't get WOW, but hope that my bet on second best pays off.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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