As noted Friday, Verizon FiOS was installed in a package deal with telephone, Internet access and television service at my home.
Here's a gallery (right) walking through the main parts of the installation process for folks that may be considering FiOS. Dan Bricklin had a detailed installation walk-through in 2005 that seems to hold today. My walkthrough, however, follows the installation when cables are buried and seems to have updated gear in certain areas.
The installer, Ryan, was a third generation Verizon employee and was very knowledgeable. He also didn't mind me asking a bevy of questions and taking a few pictures. He also noted that the fastest he ever installed FiOS was two hours--all the wiring was in right places. Ryan's longest installation: 18 hours--some guy wanted nine televisions wired and a jack in every room since he had also had nine PCs.
The router question: Many folks seemed to be miffed that Verizon requires you to use their router. Given that the Verizon router is a bit homely--not to mention huge--I can see the point. Many complaints revolved around Verizon's D-Link router, which didn't have a wide range. Ryan noted that Verizon was aware of the problem and has been installing routers made by Actiontec in my area (Bucks County, PA). I didn't see an issue so far, but did install a downstream wireless router (my old one) just in case.
The copper issue: I was a bit wary about reports that Verizon decommissions copper wiring when it installs FiOS. Here's what happened: The old telephone box was still attached but bypassed for FiOS. Now it wouldn't be difficult to reconnect the box if you were to ditch FiOS. Verizon didn't trash the old telephone box and it still sits there attached to the house. The existing copper wiring in phone jacks and elsewhere in the house still exists--it would be too costly for Verizon to replace all of this wiring with fiber optic cable. In the end, I'm not sure I get the hubbub over the copper wiring flap. If there were a rival to offer phone service over copper wiring there may be an issue--Verizon owns the box.
Just how fast can this get? Ryan noted that Verizon has tested the fiber-optic lines in my area and hit a throughput of 60 mbps downstream. These tests are ongoing so you could always see a blip here and there. He also noted that speeds in Texas and New York are faster than those reached in PA--it's unclear why that's the case. Verizon controls the speed from the central office and once in a while you can see speed increase as Verizon plays with the network. I have the mid-tier plan that has 15 mbps downstream. Simply put, Verizon is building an infrastructure that has plenty of headroom if the speed war escalates with cable providers.
On demand video may boost download speed: Apparently when you download a video on demand, Verizon bumps up the network speed. The upshot: You can get 30 mbps of Internet speed while someone is watching an on demand video. Note I haven't tried this yet, but Ryan had mentioned it.
Microsoft's role: The remote control/DVR box has a feature called widgets, which calls up small factoids like traffic and weather across the bottom of the screen. It could be handy, but I've had a tough time with them. When the DVR box was installed the widgets froze. TV worked fine, but the widgets were a no-show. Ryan the installer got them working, but these widgets disappeared later. I haven't been motivated enough to call Verizon about it yet--frankly it's easier to just flip to the Weather Channel to get the weather. Microsoft's platform is likely to have a bigger role on Verizon's network in the future so it's worth noting.